Ina Fried and Lauren Goode

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Dynamic Dual Coverage: Ballmer’s Last Act in Vegas and the BCS Championship in 3-D

Yep, you read that right.

Let’s face it, there are plenty of places to read about Steve Ballmer’s CES keynote. And, if you wanted to, you could watch the whole darn thing.

But it’s probably not going to be worth your undivided attention. Fret not — we here at AllThingsD agree. So, here in Las Vegas, we’ve decided to combine Ina Fried’s live blog of the final Ballmer keynote with reports from Lauren Goode, who will be at an ESPN event checking out the BCS National Championship game — in 3-D.

That way, when Ballmer starts yammering on, we can check in on ‘Bama and LSU. And when the football game pauses for yet another five-minute instant replay, you can learn a little something about Windows 8 or Xbox.

And even if not much is happening at either one, count on Lauren and Ina to keep you entertained.

The festivities should kick off around the same time the football game does, at 5:30 pm PT, and keep going until the end of the fourth quarter — or longer, if Ballmer or the game goes into overtime.

5:21 pm: All right, folks. After some issues getting Wi-Fi in the Hilton Theater, I’m getting ready to liveblog the BCS game for you (with a hat tip to Engadget, who helped out with a Wi-Fi code).

(And this is Lauren, by the way, at the theater at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino — formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton, home to Elvis and Barry Manilow. Ina’s coming to you from the Microsoft keynote at the Venetian. We’ll be sure to ID ourselves along the way!)

Right now, some ESPN execs are talking about the “true 3-D experience” while we gear up for the game. So in the meantime, I’ll provide some context.

5:25 pm: Here’s what you need to know about this bowl game: 1. It’s Alabama versus LSU. They’re both very good. That’s why they’re in the championship. 2. Disclaimer: I know very little about college football. (I did play collegiate sports, but not football.) I will do my best to keep you posted on the developments of this game. 3. I’m told Tim Tebow will not be playing in this game, which confuses me, because I follow Twitter trending topics and he seems to be a shoo-in when it comes to football game days. 4. This game will be broadcast in 3-D!

Marchon has provided 3-D eyewear for the event. I’ve just put mine on. Big football players now look bigger. Midfield SkyCam hovering above coin toss right now.

And yes, I was joking about Tim Tebow. Sort of.

5:29 pm: So I’m also told — by guy friends who watch college football, as well as by sources close to Google search — that LSU has an incredibly fast team. LSU and Alabama were matched up earlier in the season; it was a low-scoring game, and LSU squeaked by with a W. In the meantime, though, ‘Bama’s offense has improved. Tonight’s should be an excellent game.

Side note: I wonder what Steve Ballmer looks like on a 3-D screen …

The Hilton Theater — which technically may not be the Hilton Theater anymore, since the hotel just changed its name — anyway, the theater is actually pretty full. Everyone is wearing their 3-D glasses. But remember, it’s early. The last time I watched a sporting event in a 3-D theater — hockey at Madison Square Garden — I noticed a lot of people removing their glasses and tiring of the screen by the second period.

5:34 pm: Update: I’ve just been told by ESPN PR that Wi-Fi is down in the whole building here. Just in time for CES!

5:37 pm: So far, of the 10 3-D cameras used in this telecast, the best viewing angles seem to be the ground-level views, especially the one from the sideline. That may be ESPN’s 3-D “Ultra Slo Motion” camera.

5:39 pm: Going to break, with LSU in possession of the ball. I was wondering whether the commercials would be in 3-D as well — and, in fact, they are.

5:41 pm: While we’re in a commercial break, a little info about the kind of 3-D glasses we’re all wearing: They’re known as “passive” lenses, as opposed to active-shutter 3-D glasses, which create the 3-D image by rapidly shuttering the left eye and then the right eye. Passive — a.k.a. polarized — 3-D glasses are cheaper, look a lot like sunglasses, and work by allowing different levels of light into each eye. Note that these are different from the anaglyph cardboard glasses you might have worn at the movies as a kid.

5:39 pm: Ina here. I’m having a quick chat with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop before the Ballmer-note begins.

Indeed, Nokia’s announcement of the Lumia 900 Windows Phone is one of the biggest CES goings-on for Microsoft.

Ballmer appeared twice today already to talk about it, first at AT&T’s event in the morning, and then, just a couple hours ago, at Nokia’s event.

5:43 pm: And we’re back. LSU has made a couple little mistakes here to start, according to the game announcers, but right now, all I’m seeing is a pig-pile of red and yellow uniforms around the 20-yard line.

5:47 pm: Just asked a fellow theatergoer what he thought of the 3-D. So far, so good, he said, but we both noticed that the line-of-scrimmage line at the first down — that yellow line you see move across the screen during football broadcasts — seems to be missing from this one.

Other graphic elements, though, like name chyrons and stat charts, really jump out in 3-D.

Ah, there’s the yellow augmented reality line on the field. But it’s less noticeable.

5:51 pm: Lauren again. Other tidbits about this 3-D game: It’s ESPN 3D’s 188th telecast overall, and 39th 3-D football game over two seasons. The commentary, however, is the same commentary the 2-D “normals” at home are hearing.

ESPN now touting X-Games in a 3-D commercial. Must admit: Snowboarding looks pretty great in 3-D.

5:56 pm: Alabama’s defense looking to squelch Jordan Jefferson. That’s what I can tell from this. (See how much I know about college football?) Alabama seemingly has learned a bit from last matchup.

Jordan Jefferson currently unavailable for comment on what he thinks of 3-D broadcast.

Yet another commercial. These guys get a lot of breaks. I mean, basketball players don’t stop every time they run up the court. Well, some of them do.

6:01 pm: Ooh, a flag thrown!

Doesn’t look any different in 3-D, though.

6:03 pm: Actual game update: LSU’s making a lot of mistakes. Someone on Alabama is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury. Alabama’s up 3-0, with about a minute left in the first quarter.

6:05 pm: First quarter concludes with quite a completion from Alabama, who have a 3-0 lead.

Now the announcers on TV are giving us a shout-out here at CES. Audience cheers — loudest cheers I’ve heard so far here today.

6:08 pm: A little more info about just some of the 3-D gadgetry used to broadcast this game:

There’s a SkyCam that carries both 3-D and 2-D cameras developed for ESPN 3D, a 3-D Ultra Slo Motion camera on a cart that moves along the sideline developed for ESPN 3D, three miniaturized handheld 3-D cameras, and a 3-D game camera on a 28-foot-high mast on a cart that moves along the sideline to stay close to the action.

6:09 pm: People are cheering! Something just happened! Some sort of fake-out, I think, in which Alabama ran the ball. That was crafty.

LSU is challenging the call, it seems. 3-D does not enhance challenged calls, FYI.

Aaaaand another commercial. I wonder how it’s going on Ina’s side, at the Microsoft keynote event.

6:16 pm: Alabama free throw blocked! I mean, field goal. Alabama was kicking.

6:17 pm: What I want to know is: Where are the vuvuzelas at these events?

6:21 pm: Just asked another attendee what he thinks of the 3-D. “Outstanding,” he said. (He also said he doesn’t work for ESPN, when I asked.)

6:26 pm: Lauren again. About nine minutes left in the second quarter, and no changes to the scoreboard.

Regarding my 3-D experience so far: The glasses I’m wearing are comfortable, and I don’t feel the urge to take them off yet. And I’m enjoying the 3-D, although despite the crisp RealD screen and cool depth of field from certain angles, there’s still something dizzying about some shots.

6:32 pm: Jeremy Shelley up to kick a 34-yard field goal … and it’s good!

Nice three-pointer from outside the perimeter! Or something.

Alabama’s now up 6-0.

6:35 pm: According to the announcers, Alabama gave up kickoff returns for touchdowns their past two games. This game is far from over. And it’s still very three-dimensional.

6:37 pm: Still Lauren here. Ina’s having some Wi-Fi issues from the Microsoft keynote event, so we’re going to try to keep you updated as best we can from there.

6:42 pm: ESPN now showing a quick Alabama highlight reel from 2010. Have to wonder whether that was 2-D content (likely) that’s been up-converted to 3-D. There must be a fair amount of old footage converted to 3-D on 3-D channels like ESPN and Discovery.

6:42 pm: Ina just sent an update from the Microsoft keynote: Ryan Seacrest is the event’s celebrity guest host. He’s worked with Bing in the past.

First Kim, Kourtney & Khloe, and now Kinect?

On the college football side, less than a minute left in the second quarter.

6:46 pm: :03 left before we head to the half. This time it’s a 42-yarder for ‘Bama’s Jeremy Shelley … and again, it’s good.

Fans waving multicolored pom-poms at 3-D camera, dizzying close-up, please, no, make it go away.

6:48 pm: At the Microsoft event, Ryan Seacrest has noted that he has to raise his voice — and chair — to be on level playing field with Ballmer.

6:48 pm: They are now talking Windows phone, Ina tells me. Ballmer holds up a phone and notes he has a missed call from Bill Gates.

“Call him back on speaker,” Seacrest quips.

6:50 pm: Ina here — been having lots of trouble connecting. Had to resort to sending iMessages to Lauren, but let me see if this works.

It’s packed here, by the way. They were turning folks away. I arrived a few minutes before the keynote with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, and we were both initially rebuffed. (I’ll tell you later abut the phone conversation I had, asking if I could bring Stephen in to see the keynote.)

6:52 pm: Back to Ballmer, who is talking about Windows Phone’s partners.

He notes first Nokia phones coming to North America, with T-Mobile starting to sell the Lumia 710 and Rogers and Telus offering the Lumia 710 and 800 in Canada. (One is carrying one, and the other, the other, I think.)

Microsoft will also start selling the Nokia Lumia 800 unlocked in its stores.

6:54 pm: Halftime here at the (formerly) Hilton Theater. I’m now watching golf promos in 3-D. That little white ball isn’t any easier to see.

Of course Ballmer is really excited about the new LTE Windows Phones coming to AT&T — the HTC Titan II, with its 16 megapixel camera; and the Lumia 900, which is coming to AT&T, though no dates have been given for either.

“We’re clearly on the right track,” Ballmer said.

6:56 pm: Talk turning to Windows 8. Seacrest notes that Microsoft faces increasing competition there, clearly from Apple, though he didn’t use the A-word.

“Nothing better than good competition,” Ballmer said. “It’s a great thing, and I’m glad we’ve got Windows.”

6:56 pm: Lauren here. In terms of 3-D sports broadcasts, football may be a relatively easy sport to shoot and produce in 3-D, given all of the space on the field.

With hockey broadcasts, the NHL in the past has had to remove rows of seats in order to squeeze 3-D cameras in at the right angles. Same with basketball: I’ve been told that to shoot basketball games in 3-D, camera ops have to squeeze in at the corner angles next to the “regular” broadcast cameras, and in some instances the sideline “Jack Nicholson” seat gets blocked.

Back to Ina at Microsoft: But things have changed, Seacrest notes.

Of course, Ballmer says. Change is a constant. Ballmer promises Windows 8 will offer a no-compromises operating system with good battery life, performance, etc., etc.

By the way, one reason it is hard to get into the keynote is all the seats clearly taken up by Microsoft’s product teams. You can tell, because whenever a product or feature is mentioned, you hear loud cheers coming from one specific section of the room.

7:00 pm: We realize our posts are running together. We’ll work to be more clear about who’s who.

7:01 pm: Hey Lauren, what’s the score, by the way?

7:02 pm: Hey Ina! It’s 9-0, Alabama. Bunch of field goals. If these guys wanted to kick all day, why aren’t they playing soccer, is my question.

7:04 pm: How’s it going at Microsoft? I’d offer to switch, just so you could get a glimpse of the 3-D, but the cab lines at CES are so long you probably wouldn’t make it in time.

7:03 pm: Good question. Sorry I am missing it. We’re getting a demo of Windows 8 here, but it’s the same stuff we saw at the Build conference, and even at D9 before that.

It’s like watching last year’s BCS game.

7:07 pm: Ina, at last year’s Microsoft keynote ,you might remember they called upon the double-rainbow Internet meme. Here at the BCS game, the ESPN announcers are all about the Honey Badger meme. Oy.

7:12 pm: Lauren here. And we’re back from the half of the BCS championship game.

Third down at five! Not 100 percent sure what that means, but it seems like Alabama has come back from halftime with a vengeance.

7:16 pm: Jeremy Shelley with another field goal for Alabama. And I am increasingly convinced that this football game is soccer, and I don’t mean in that way that it is outside of the U.S.

7:17 pm: Meanwhile, from Microsoft, someone should throw a flag for delay of game. Ina’s having Wi-Fi issues again, but here are her updates …

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is basically the same Windows 8 demo we’ve seen before.

Now, moving to stuff you can currently buy: Microsoft is showing an HP ultrabook and Samsung’s Series 9 laptop (Correction: We originally said it was a tablet).

7:20 pm: Lauren here. LSU has been all over the map, offensively. They’ve got the ball again now. Crowd thinned out about during halftime, but it looks like most people returned to their seats.

We’re all still wearing our 3-D glasses.

7:21 pm: Alabama’s defense wins first down again, just a few minutes into the third quarter.

7:24 pm: For boxing fans, if you’re curious about 3-D, and you’ve got 3-D capabilities at home: ESPN says it plans to televise Friday Night Fights in 3-D, live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino this Friday night. I won’t be here for that one. Um, darn.

7:26 pm: Back to Microsoft: There is an honest-to-goodness gospel choir, called the Tweet Choir, singing out what people have been tweeting about during the keynote.

Now the talk is moving to Xbox. And a new number: 18 million Kinect sensors shipped. Seacrest has asked Ballmer if he expected it to be where it is today when the company started.

Ballmer: “I was optimistic. I was bullish. I was patient.”

7:30 pm: ESPN announcer references “Honey Badger” again. This time, I figure out he’s talking about LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu.

7:33 pm: Ina here. Hey, Lauren, our worlds briefly collided: They demoed the ESPN app and showed the game. 12-0, huh?

7:34 pm: Microsoft is back to running laterally with a demo of voice search on Kinect — a feature that debuted last fall.

7:34 pm: Lauren here. Meanwhile, LSU and Jordan Jefferson literally give the ball away to ‘Bama. Mosely hurt by Jefferson’s tackle following the interception.

7:35 pm: At the Microsoft keynote, a few new partnerships are announced, including one with AllThingsD‘s parent, News Corp., which is bringing Fox, WSJ Live, IGN and Fox News Channel to Xbox.

More exciting to me (Ina), though, is a partnership with Sesame Workshop to make “Sesame Street” interactive.

In the demo, kids can throw coconuts to their favorite monsters, who then count them.

7:38 pm: Ina here. “Elmo’s World” is also made interactive, allowing kids to enter a crayon-drawn world. It’s coming later this year, Microsoft said, as are the News Corp. apps.

7:40 pm: This is just the beginning, Ballmer said, adding that Kinect will revolutionize far more entertainment.

Kinect is coming to Windows on Feb. 1, Ballmer announced.

7:42 pm: So, is that all Microsoft is up to? Seacrest has asked, handing off the ball to the Ballmer.

Not by a long shot, Ballmer says. He touts Ford’s Sync, Office, Skype. Bing, he notes, has reached 30 percent market share in the U.S., if you count Yahoo.

7:43 pm: Lauren here, back to the game. LSU is 0 for 6 on third downs, and that’s where they are right now. People are whooping. LSU down at the 17-yard line.

7:44 pm: At the Microsoft event, Ballmer is stressing that Windows 8 is what’s next. There is nothing more important at Microsoft, he says.

We’re at the two-minute warning, and Ballmer is running out the clock …

7:44 pm: And with that, we’re out. Microsoft keynote has wrapped.

7:45 pm: Here at the Hilton Theater, the score is 12-0 Alabama with about two-and-a-half minutes left in the third.

And Alabama’s got a first down at the 36.

7:46 pm: Lauren again. I’m going to keep the liveblog going until this game has wrapped.

7:49 pm: Another field goal for Alabama, with their go-to guy Shelley getting ready to kick. These really are happening as frequently as free throws, it seems. This time, it’s a 44-yarder. And it’s good.

I bet Jeremy Shelley was always picked first for kickball as a kid.

I wonder why there isn’t a 3-D camera from behind the goal posts, instead of in front of it. The pigskin might look cooler as it’s flying toward the crowd.

7:51 pm: Score update: 15-0, with Alabama in the lead and 20 seconds left in the third quarter. LSU’s got to turn up the fire. They need Steve Ballmer screaming in their faces, maybe.

7:53 pm: What did you guys think of the news, and non-news, from the Microsoft keynote? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

7:56 pm: Fourth quarter has kicked off. Amazingly, no one has fouled out or gotten a technical yet.

7:58 pm: When is Ryan Seacrest going to show up at the Hilton Theater to help promote 3-D? I’d welcome a Justin Timberlake appearance, too — he was part of an earlier announcement today from Myspace and Panasonic (my colleague Peter Kafka has the story on that.)

8:03 pm: Man sitting next to me just told me me he has a 3-D TV at home. Pretty sure I looked at him like he has wings and a magical horn sprouting from his forehead.

Back to the game: Alabama is getting pumped up. I know this because there’s lots of chest-bumping. Time is ebbing away — with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter — and ‘Bama’s defense is stopping LSU in its tracks.

8:08 pm: LSU’s Jefferson shows some spark — crossing the 50 for the first time today.

LSU needs touchdowns. Badly. About 6:30 left in the fourth quarter.

A Hail Mary pass to Landry, but it’s a miss.

8:13 pm: Pigskin loose on the field! (Jump ball?)

8:15 pm: Another shout-out from ESPN announcers to us folks in Las Vegas who are watching this in 3-D. Now ESPN is showing us still images in 3-D. Some are rendering the effects better than others.

8:17 pm: If Alabama wins this one — and it’s looking this way — it’s the first shutout in any BCS bowl championship game.

Second down, with Alabama working on the clock now. About six minutes left in the game.

8:20 pm: Alabama runs it into the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown!

Alabama up 21-0 now, four-and-a-half minutes to go.

8:21 pm: Jeremy Shelley misses the field goal this time. I’d still pick him first for kickball.

Readers, any questions about the 3-D broadcast? Any comments? Leave your remarks in comments below.

8:23 pm: All right, we’re winding down our FootBallmer dual-blog. LSU rushing down the field, but it’s almost futile.

8:26 pm: Announcer just said Jordan Jefferson has been made invisible this game. Now that’s the technology we should talk about. Where’s their booth at CES?

There are still a good amount of 3-D viewers here in the Hilton Theater, but it’s hard to know whether that’s for the game, or for the free beer and food.

There are about two minutes left. And ‘Bama’s got it in the bag.

8:29 pm: Final thoughts on the BCS championship series game: I’m still wearing the glasses. They’re not irritating, but I’m also in a dark theater, and not in my living room. The 3-D broadcast provided some interesting depth of field from some angles, while others were a bit of a strain on the eyes.

Alabama wins the BCS championship, behind coach Nick Saban and the young AJ McCarron.

Final score: 21-0.

8:34 pm: There’s the essential Gatorade dumping over the coach, this time in 3-D. Alabama celebrates, and the theater here is thinning out. I’m still wondering where the vuvuzelas are. And that Tim Tebow guy.

Until next time …


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