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Bill Gates' CES Keynote: Vista To Drive Downloadable Apps

In his Sunday night CES keynote, Gates said Windows Vista will offer computer users the ability to gain additional features over time--for a price.
This is the eleventh time Gates has given the kick-off speech at CES, and next year may be his last. Gates said he would speak at the conference a year from now, but indicated he might hang up his CES spurs after that. He plans to leave day-to-day operations at Microsoft in the summer of 2008 to work full time at his charitable foundation. "I might talk a lot more about infectious diseases than great software," he joked.

Beside showing new features of Vista, and the ability to download new functions to enhance Microsoft's Windows Vista Ultimate software, Gates discussed efforts to bring versions of Windows to new types of computers beyond traditional desktop and notebook PCs. Making those devices, and the networks they connect to, compatible, will be key to digitizing more work and entertainment, he said. Right now, consumers can't easily perform tasks that span different types of computers, like updating their PC calendars from their cell phones, or easily listening to their digital music collections in their cars. Connecting electronic environments is even more important now, as people use the same computing devices and online services to manage both personal and work tasks. "We can't even just say 'consumer,' because these experiences span into business environments," he said.

Gates showed a Windows Home Server due from Hewlett-Packard later this year that can let computers on a home network access common programs and files, and automatically back up each machine. He discussed a touch-screen PC from HP, a laptop with a wireless docking station from Toshiba, and an "ultramobile" PC designed for reading and watching video from German company Medion AG that will come pre-loaded with Vista this month. Ford Motor Co. executive VP Mark Fields showed a new Windows-powered entertainment and messaging system called Sync that will appear in a dozen models this year. And Microsoft entertainment division president Robbie Bach demonstrated the ability to watch Internet Protocol TV on the company's Xbox 360 video-game system.

Capping off the keynote, Gates personally demonstrated a new Microsoft concept for the "connected home of the future." Strolling from a faux bus stop, to a home's kitchen, to its bedroom, Gates showed how next decade's consumer might use computer technology to make their day easier.

Standing in a mocked up bus stop--"Because I'm very familiar with bus stops," he quipped--Gates glanced at a digital display of schedules and ads, and used a cell phone to zap his signature to a package delivery guy outside his front door. In the bedroom, Gates morphed a wall-sized display from a racing game to "soothing" images of an aquarium. And in the kitchen, he placed RFID-tagged groceries on a counter, which triggered a projected computer display of suggested recipes. Using his voice to navigate the options, Gates drilled down into a few menus until he found instructions for a loaf of focacchia. Microsoft plans to show the demonstration on its campus in Redmond, Wash., as well.

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