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February 25, 2008 Provided by System Dynamics Inc.

The World After Bill

Every CES since 1994 has featured a keynote speech by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. Gates steps down in July to devote full time to his Foundation and its work on health care and education, so 2008 was his last CES keynote--or at least his last as Chairman.

We spent more than an hour in line with the rest of the media to get good seats for Gates's speech. In what has become a yearly pattern, the speech included comic segments featuring big name stars and politicians--including George Clooney, Steven Spielberg, Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, Bono, Al Gore, Jon Stewart--focused on Bill's last day at Microsoft.

The serious part of the talk included many descriptions and demonstrations showcasing the changes that Microsoft sees coming about through its work. This year, it was focused on what will happen now that the "first digital decade" has been such a success.

The speech projected a "next digital decade" that is more user-centric and in which

  • Experiences will be made more compelling through high definition video, 3D and high quality audio;
  • Simpler ways to navigate--gestures, speech, touch pens and visual recognition--will simplify and improve the consumer experience; and
  • All the rich applications will be "service connected" so that users don't have to bridge between devices they way they need to today.

Does this sound far out? We remember when Gates's phrase "the world at your fingertips" seemed far out too. But we take it for granted today.

Microsoft's key announcements included:

  • Availability of increasing amounts of video content for XBox, including ABC and Disney bringing their TV shows and MGM bringing its library of films to that platform.
  • Providing on line, interactive, on-demand video coverage of the 2008 Olympics through cooperation between Microsoft and NBC Universal

The last segment of the talk, done jointly with Robbie Bach, President of Microsoft Connected Devices, illustrated 3D visualization on a mobile phone and other forward-looking projects. The tone of the closing remarks suggested that Bach has been tapped to take Gates's place a year from now--but lots can change in a year.

(You didn't have to stand on a long line to see the show. Bill's Last Day ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xr5w3X4R8b4 ) is available on YouTube, and the full keynote ( www.microsoft.com/ces ) is at the Microsoft site.)

( www.microsoft.com ) ( www.nbcuni.com )