Posting from Las Vegas: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer generated lots of applause and more than a little confusion with this statement Monday night during his Consumer Electronics Show keynote address: “Tonight, I’m thrilled to announce that Kinect is coming to Windows on February 1st, in just a couple of weeks.”
People use the Kinect sensor today to control their Xbox 360s with gestures and voice commands. So Ballmer’s statement was interpreted by many casual fans to mean that everyone will be doing the same thing with Kinect on Windows PCs starting Feb. 1. We’ll soon be scrolling through email by waving our arms, or maybe saving documents by scratching our noses, right?
Sorry, but that’s not the case, at least not yet.
What Ballmer was announcing was the official launch of the commercial Kinect for Windows program, which includes a new version of the Kinect sensor specially tuned for Windows and the official release of a software development kit that companies can use to make Kinect applications that run on Windows.
As noted in the Amazon.com product listing, the sensor requires the software development kit to work on Windows.
In other words, it was a business-to-business announcement at a consumer show. Hence the confusion.
Over time, the program is expected to result in Kinect-based programs for Windows, but they’re more likely to show up first in business settings, such as car dealerships and retail stores. This is not coming to your home computer in a couple weeks.
As Ballmer went on to note during the keynote, Microsoft is working with more than 200 companies on Kinect for Windows applications. He cited the example of United Health Group, Toyota, Telefonica, Mattel, American Express.
Another clue that the Feb. 1 launch isn’t about the home is the cost of the Kinect for Windows sensor, $250, which is $100 more than the price of the Kinect for Xbox 360. Microsoft priced it that way with companies and software developers in mind.
The price of Kinect for Xbox 360 is effectively subsidized by the fact that Microsoft is counting on people to also buy Kinect games. Once Kinect for Windows is targeted to the home, the price would likely drop in recognition of similar mass-market dynamics.
But just to be clear, that isn’t what is happening in a couple weeks.