A note to the poor guy who kept pestering me for my press pass to see Bill Gates speak Wednesday evening: Sorry. I have no idea why you were desperate to see the Man of the Year’s presentation, but if it makes you feel better, you didn’t miss much.
This isn’t a dig at the Microsoft co-founder, or his company. It’s just that Gates didn’t have a lot of news to deliver at the Consumer Electronics Show keynote address, and what he did say took an awfully long time–more than 90 minutes, by my very rough count. The much shorter synopsis: Microsoft wants to do more than run your PC; it wants to be in your living room, your phone and everywhere else you can think of, just as fast as it can.
Frankly, I’m in the latter camp. Here’s a quick rundown of what I felt to be the “high” spots:
Digital Lifestyle Demo: I’m always a sucker for futuristic demos – the gadgets are great and they always show the poverty of imagination of the marketeers. This was no exception. Poor Bill Gates got to demonstrate a vision of the digital lifestyle of four years in the future where lots of interesting technology is apparently to be used for wildly inappropriate purposes.
Windows Vista: Very little was new here. I personally was giving demos of many of the same Vista (then Longhorn) features two years ago. Also, you can say “Confident,” “Clear,” and “Connected” too many times.
Media Player: The unintentionally humorous appearances by MTV Networks’ Music Group President Van Toffler and “wardrobe malfunction” guy, Justin Timberlake didn’t detract from the fact that the URGE music service may be a winner. It requires only Windows Media Player, not a Media Center PC, and it’s available as both a subscription and individual item purchase model. All devices compatible with Windows Media will work with URGE. The risks are that the pricing will be wrong and that MTV will choke it with non-musical flummery.
Media Center Deals: New content deals for Media Center PC’s are useful but the recent growth in Media Center shipments was due to low end boxes shipped without TV tuners so it’s unclear what real effect TV oriented content will have. And sorry, but introducing a 2nd generation of Portable Media Centers won’t fix a flawed model.
Windows Mobile: The Palm Treo 700w looks like a winner and that will make Microsoft look good as well. Microsoft based smart phones are looking up.
VoIP: The partner phones are typical of the genre and Microsoft is a bit late to the party. They were with mobile phones too, of course.
Xbox 360: Were Gates and Ballmer really boxing or was it rigged? It’s still early days for Xbox 360, but it’s looking good, and despite some press astonishment, the availability of a HD DVD attachment this year was as certain as death and taxes.