In his keynote speech at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Bill Gates did not unveil any new Microsoft products, choosing to promote the company's existing products and partners.
In previous years, the Microsoft chairman and chief software architect has used his keynote to unveil products such as the Xbox game console, wireless displays or smart watches.
Gates preaches remote madness
Gates also avoided proposing a new Microsoft vision of computing and electronics for consumers, choosing to stress his vision of a digital lifestyle instead. Gates told the audience that Microsoft can enable that lifestyle with products available today, such as Windows XP Media Center Edition, Portable Media Centers, MSN online services and the Xbox.
"Look at today's living room, you have five remote controls and you still can't get your music where you want it," Gates said. Microsoft can overcome this problem by integrating its products, he said.
The keynote featured a mock episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien who did a standup routine making fun of Microsoft and technology industry executives winning unsolicited help from botched product demonstrations, including the demonstration of a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC that repeatedly refused to show a slide show of pictures taken of O'Brien and Gates out for a night on the town.
Catgorized market intelligence
Microsoft has divided its vision of the digital lifestyle into five categories that align with its products: music, pictures, television, communication and gaming. The company, helped by hardware makers, has delivered products that can integrate all of these categories, Gates said.
Gates' speech this year was short on news because Microsoft has no major consumer products coming out this year. The next big product introduction is expected to be Longhorn, the successor to Windows XP due in 2006, said Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst with Jupiter Research.
"This is a transition year to the next operating system," Wilcox said. "If you look at past CES (keynotes), you had Microsoft announcing new stuff that would be coming out in the year ahead. If you look at this year, there is more momentum news than talk about new things,"
The keynote address, which Microsoft sees as an annual overview of its consumer strategy, was not entirely void of news. For example, Microsoft is working with LG Electronics on a device that combines a digital video recorder with a DVD recorder and is also able to access content on Windows PCs, Gates said.
Microsoft has also reached a deal with MTV to build content services based on Windows Media technologies. The MTV content will also be available to Windows Media Center users, according to Microsoft. Additional content agreements have been signed with Yahoo and Fox Sports, Gates said.
Additionally, looking to further improve the Windows user experience, Microsoft will also work with Tivo. to extend the recently announced "TiVoToGo" service. Users will be able to transfer recordings from their Tivo device to Windows Mobile devices such as Pocket PCs, smart phones or portable media centres, Gates said.
Windows Media 10 hits 10 million d/ls
But Gates talked mostly about momentum for Microsoft products. For example, Gates noted that Windows Media Player 10 has been downloaded over 95 million times since its release a few months ago and that Microsoft has now sold 1.4 million copies of Media Center Edition, up from 1 million at the end of September
Microsoft has also won another customer for its system that delivers television signals to consumers over a broadband telecommunications network. BellSouth has committed to using the Microsoft IPTV.
While the entertainment value was high, the keynote lacked new products, said CES attendee Dror Amir, an electronic business and automation manager at La Curacao: "They are getting better at entertainment, but there were no new products, only more on products we already know," he said.