CES 08 - Gates Keynote high on fun, low on fact

Written by Brett Thomas

January 7, 2008 | 08:15

Tags: #bill-gates #ces-2008 #communication #consumer-electronics #events #sync

Companies: #ces #microsoft

Well, it's the start of the new year, and we know what that means - it's time once again for the annual Consumer Electronics Show out here in very windy and somewhat chilly Las Vegas. This year has started (as have many years past) with the de facto standard of industry vision - Bill Gates.

Gates (and a few of his friends) delivered the more than hour long spectacle in the main ballroom of the newly opened Pallazzo Hotel to a standing-room-only audience. He personally presented about a third of the show, with the balance being presented by Entertainment Division President Robbie Bach.

It's not really a surprise that Bill didn't do as much of the talking this year - as of June, 2008, he will step down from his role at Microsoft to pursue his Private Foundation charitable work. A decent portion of the event revolved around his leaving, including several celebrity appearances via a video of "Bill's last day."

Those present at the show can already see the overarching theme this year of "interoperability," and the Gates keynote brought this in with a bang. The bread and butter of Microsoft's presentation was regarding steps forward in tying together the Xbox 360, Windows Mobile and Windows Vista into streamlined, intuitive affairs.

However, all of the technology news discussed revolved around prior platforms. The big news of the day included NBC and Disney bringing their TV shows to Xbox Live Marketplace (remember the fallout with iTunes?), which brings the network up to having more than double the on-demand content of any cable or satellite provider worldwide.

Other discussion revolved around Microsoft Sync, the joint effort with Fiat in Europe and Ford in the USA to create a streamlined voice activation system for your personal devices in a car (MP3, mobile phone, GPS, etc.), as well as Microsoft Live and its MediaRoom IPTV service. NBC has also decided to use Microsoft's Silverlight technology for coverage of the Beijing Olympics, which will allow user-grouped coverage based on interest that is streamed directly to MediaRoom.

Zune Social was touched on brielfly, as were the Media Center Extender devices that will be showing up in Samsung and HP televisions and consumer devices near you this year. However, very little attention was truly paid to either - Zune was announced as finally being "a clear alternative to the iPod," and no information was provided about the MCE devices aside from "coming soon."

The Xbox 360 did have some pretty big news dropped (aside from the new content) - Microsoft is now in contract with British Telecom to distribute boxes (details of rent or purchase and price were unclear) for people signing up for broadband as part of the competition against satellite companies.

However, none of this really provided enough substance in my opinion for what we were all hoping for. Rumours of a 360 with built-in HD-DVD, nor any other new product, ever were validated or refuted. Everything revolved around the future success of prior products, without discussing much in the way of updates or revisions. Though Bill did demonstrate a couple great "development lab products," we can only speculate on when any of this will be (some of that was seen before, too).

Fortunately for us, though, at least Guns'n'Roses guitarist Slash and Guitar Hero champion Kelly "TipperQueen" Law-Yone delivered a pretty great send-off. It's a shame that they (and Bill's last-day video) were the only memorable moments.

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