Thousands of people attended what will suppsoedly be Microsoft’s last opening keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show last night, which took place in the huge Palazzo Ballroom at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. For the last 14 years former CEO Bill Gates or the current CEO Steve Ballmer have entertained venue attendees at the world’s largest electronics convention.

There is no doubt Steve Ballmer’s last speech commanded the usual mix of power and had the attention of its omnipresent media circus, but at the same time it’s not difficult to see why the software giant has decided to step down in future conventions. January just isn’t typically a month in which Microsoft announces anything new or industry breaking and it showed, with much of the 90-minute keynote covering products the media largely already knew about.

As expected, there was no information on when Windows 8 will be released, though predictions suggest late summer to early fall as the likely timeframe of release. Mostly the speech touted Microsoft’s upcoming OS, and the Windows Mobile operating system, with American Idol host Ryan Seacrest helping things along with nicely timed comments about Microsoft products.

On Windows mobile, Ballmer commented: “We definitely took a different approach than anyone else […] and I think we have a real unique and different experience.” He went on to say, “What we’ve done with windows phone is put the people that are important to you right in front of you. Windows Phone is the first phone that puts people first.”

That was followed by product demonstrations from Derek Snyder, senior product manager for Windows Phone, including explanations regarding the “people” hub and other features on the phone.

Nokia was then mentioned in reference to the earlier unveiling of the Lumia 900 4G mobile phone by AT&T. The device features a 4.3-inch AMOLED screen and will be released shortly. It will be joined by HTC’s Titan 2, another 4G phone with a 4.7-inch display and 16-megapixel camera.

Attendees were also informed Windows 7 now has 500 million users, out of a total of 1.3 billion Windows computers in use. “Nothing better than good competition and I’m glad we’ve got Windows. Windows has been phenomenal,” Ballmer said. He also said Windows 7 users will be able to run Windows 8 from day one.

What immediately followed was a choir singing in full gospel chorus tweets that had been received regarding its keynote at CES so far. People were noticed getting up and leaving at this point.

Further product demonstrations were given, including one for Picture Password, showing a Windows session being unlocked by clicking on certain points of a photo.

Microsoft announced February 1 as the launch of Kinect for Windows, as well as updates to the Xbox 360 version which includes further incorporation of the software giant’s motion control platform into games. New features will now enable users to control their Xbox interfaces using voice commands.

Boeing, Siemens, Mattel and Toyota are developing Kinect software for Windows, which is likely to spawn some interesting uses for Kinect. “Just as Kinect revolutionized gaming, we'll see it revolutionize other industries, like entertainment, healthcare and more.”

Ballmer used the final moments of the keynote speech to talk more about Windows 8, and the radical Metro interface, a monumental change from the UI it has kept to in the past with previous Windows releases. There is no doubt it is a crucial year for Microsoft, as the software company refocuses on upcoming markets in a bid to stay ahead of the competition.