Bill Gates' keynote at CES was webcast live by Microsoft. This keynote was entitled 'Connected Experiences' and a relaxed-looking Bill Gates kicked things off by cracking a joke about how, at future CES appearances, he might talk about infectious diseases (referring to his increasing involvement in philanthropy work).
The Digital Decade
He starts off by discussing "the digital decade", noting in particular digital photography and the Internet. He says 65% of homes have digital cameras, there's more broadband penetration now, and 40% of homes have multiple computers. As far as Microsoft devices go, he says there will be more high definition and use of advanced graphics in games and virtual reality - "presentation richness" he calls it. He also talks about the terabytes and petabytes of storage being made available now.
Although he says "we have amazing hardware" (referring to hardware in general, not necessarily Microsoft's), he thinks there are some key things missing - especially "connections". He gives the usual Microsoft refrain about multiple devices connecting people together, via the Internet. Interestingly he also notes that it's not just a consumer experience - but spans into the business environment too.
He then talks about the "foundational products" that Microsoft has coming into the market. Firstly he notes Vista, "the highest quality release [of Windows] we've ever done". He says Vista and the PC "continue to have a central role, all these devices have to work together."
He also notes the importance of Office 07 - saying that Office and Windows Vista will work closely together. With Office 07, there is a new UI (with improved richness) and it will connect up to Office Live services.
Vista Media Center
Vista Media Center is an interesting product. The demo showed on stage focused on live HD TV and rich on demand media services. They showed off Sports Lounge, a partnership with Fox Sports. It gives users real-time sports scores, real-time alerts, and ability to track fantasy teams. There was also talk about new content partnerships in Media Center, which is another familiar Microsoft strategy (partner with as many major content/service providers as possible).
Bill then discusses the ecosystem of windows. Services are key for connecting up software and hardware to online. He says s/w developers are doing all kinds of apps for vista - sidebar, using search APIs, visualizations (WPF and more), etc. The general theme here is the "enablement of hardware and software partners".
Robbie Bach bounds onto the stage to talk about connected entertainment. Content and community are the two key concepts here. He starts off with music - noting the MTV Urge partnership launched at last year's CES, and also the launch in 2006 of Zune. He says Zune is already the 2nd most popular music device in their segment.
Bach then goes onto mobile phones, which he positions as "connected entertainment on my phone". Windows Mobile "outsells Blackberry in the market", says Bach.
Next up is gaming. He says the PC and Windows is the number 1 gaming platform in the world - with 200 million users. Vista will make this more powerful, he says. He talks about "the very broad ecosystem" of casual gamers.
After a long segment on Xbox (which seems to be a key part of this new living room media environment for Microsoft) Bach talks about IPTV. Microsoft (surprise surprise) has a lot of partners with IPTV. In the demo, the first thing they trumpet is its speed. Also noted is "improved channel browsing". Plus IPTV will hook into Xbox Live, so it can be used on the Xbox 360. So essentially they're integrating TV with gaming.
Engadget has the full blow-by-blow of the keynote, including other features such as Sync for cars (a partnership with Ford) and a kitchen and bedroom of the future (pic below).
Overall my impression was that this year's CES keynote by Bill Gates and team was remarkably similar to last years. If you recall, the main themes at 2006 CES were: device connectivity, partnerships, Internet as delivery vehicle, video/TV, mobile Web. The main difference between 06 and 07 is that now Microsoft is much closer to delivering on the promises, with Vista. A lot of focus was still on the pie-in-the-sky future scenarios though, like the obligatory tradeshow kitchen of the future.
Another impression I got from Gates' keynote today is that Xbox is a very important part of the digital hub for Microsoft. Not particularly surprising perhaps, given how successful Xbox has been for Microsoft, but it was interesting how many times Xbox and gaming popped up in the keynote.
Also notable, as Dan Grossman commented just now on our previous post, was the relative lack of Windows Live products. Dan wrote: "Windows Live didn't get a whole lot of coverage; most of the talk was about integration of the Xbox with Xbox Live, using the Xbox to download TV and movies, using the Xbox to play games with people connected through Vista, and using the Xbox to play new HD DVDs." I agree - apart from a mention of Virtual Earth's 3D features and also Image search (generally regarded as Microsoft's most impressive Live product currently), the silence about Windows Live apps was deafening.
Extra images: Palmsolo