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Ballmer: controllers "too complicated" for the average user

CEO's keynote speech champions voice recognition and urges partners to "join us" in the cloud

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has reinforced the importance of non-gaming features to the continued success of the Xbox.

Speaking from the Microsoft Partner Conference in Los Angeles yesterday, Ballmer demonstrated how the combination of Bing and Kinect will allow users to search the console's growing multimedia catalogue using voice-recognition.

The importance of search and voice-control is part of a broader strategy to grow the console's non-gaming functionality. Data released by the company in June suggested that up to 40 percent of Xbox activity lies outside of gaming, with around 30 hours a month devoted to video streaming alone.

Ballmer highlighted voice recognition as a key area for pushing entertainment services and expanding the Xbox audience.

"A game controller is a little too complicated for the average user," he said. "Even a remote control is a little too complicated for the average family. What we want to do is work on giving the TV a new voice. And that's your voice."

However, while Ballmer was enthusiastic about the company's Xbox business, he admitted that Microsoft has been less successful in other areas.

Of Windows Phone 7, he acknowledged that it would be "a lot of work to break through."

"In a year we've gone from very small to very small. But it's been a heck of year and you are going to see lots of programs in that market as we move forward. Nokia and people in the phone business believe in us."

Ballmer also expressed disappointment in the slow uptake of Bing among Microsoft's partners. "Bing is the Microsoft product and service our partners expend the least amount of time with right now," he said.

Bing has only 14.1 percent market share in the US, but Ballmer believes this will change through evolution of the technology and integration with services like Xbox Live.

"We are thinking about the dynamics and architecture that will let us open Bing up over the next few years to become more of a platform."

Ballmer was more enthusiastic on Microsoft's commitment to the cloud. He acknowledged that the previous year's conference had been "scary" for those partners with businesses based on selling products like Office and Windows, but the message remains the same.

"It was scary because I said we are all in on the cloud and we want partners to come with us. It is where things are going and we need you to decide whether you are going with us," he said.

"You are going to have to continue to remap and retrain yourselves."

Microsoft is due to announce its fourth quarter earnings on 21 July.

Update: Microsoft has informed GamesIndustry.biz that a new music service will not be launching on Xbox in the autumn. Steve Ballmer was only referring to the existing Zune marketplace, which has a catalogue of 11 million songs.

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Matthew Handrahan

Editor-in-Chief

Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.

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