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CES 2011: Microsoft Kinect-ing With Gamers, 8 Million Units Sold

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Microsoft officially opened the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show Wednesday night in Las Vegas, announcing it has sold more than 8 million units of the Kinect controller system.

The company expected to ship 5 million Kinect units by the end of the year.

CEO Steve Ballmer spoke to a packed house at the Hilton near the Las Vegas Convention Center, which will play host to more than 120,000 techies over the next four days beginning Thursday.

Microsoft's figures on the motion-sensitive Kinect controller confirms what retail experts have been saying: the Kinect has been in great demand during the Christmas shopping season.

Also coming soon are controller-free Kinect versions of Netflix and Hulu Plus on the Xbox.

Ballmer did not make any announcement regarding Windows 8, preferring to tout the virtues of the company's popular Windows 7 operating system.

The Microsoft team showed off improvements to Windows 7 personal computers, and Liz Sloan gave a seven-minute demo of the Windows 7 smartphone.

Improvements to the Windows 7 Phone include an optimized cut and paste option and a camera that can snap photos without unlocking the phone.

PC advances include a dual screen computer running Windows manufactured by Acer, as well as a Samsung hybrid PC/tablet with a slideout keyboard. Both devices drew applause from the audience.

Later, Mike Angiulo, corporate vice president of the Planning and PC Ecosystem team, demonstrated an upcoming Samsung surface PC for commercial use.

Turning to gaming, new to the Xbox will be Avatar Kinect, which uses facial and body recognition to create user likenesses. The avatars will be free for Xbox Live Gold members this Spring.

High performance across multiple platforms will be a hallmark of Microsoft products in 2011, according to Ballmer.

"Whatever device you use, now or in the future, Windows will be there," he said.

And wherever Microsoft goes, Apple and Google will likely be lurking right around the corner.

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