After Gates decided to bow out with a riff from Slash and no new kit, we were hoping for better things from Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini. It must be difficult to follow Gates at CES. His keynotes may not be in the same league as Steve Jobs' but they still attract thousands to this room here in The Venetian, Las Vegas.
But today, even though Otellini is the chairman of the world's largest semiconductor outfit, the room has been shrunk to cater for less spectators. And we only had to queue for 30 minutes rather than the two hours we queued for yesterday.
But actually, Otellini was compelling and out to inspire the audience. He followed a similar key theme to Gates - that the internet will become increasingly personal, and that this transition will allow consumer electronics (CE) devices to "bring a new level of capabilities and intelligence to the internet experience".
The keynote began on a light note intended to draw parallels between the development of the way we consume music and the development of the internet. A crazed version of The Buggles' 1981 song Video Killed the Radio Star was shown - the first video to be shown on MTV, fact fans - with new lyrics which we're sure sounded better during the keynote than they do here. ("The internet came and set us free/check out our mobility.")
Now: the 'go to' internet
Otellini was clearly hoping to show us the way he believes the internet could develop. "Some might say the CE industry has adapted to the internet. I maintain we're just getting started."
Otellini spoke of a way that the internet will anticipate our needs rather than simply reacting to requests. Today we're in the age of the "go-to internet", he said, before looking at the development of the PC for inspiration.
"When computing became personal, the industry changed - innovation, collaboration and standards drove growth beyond what anyone could imagine," Otellini said. He compared the early days of personal computing to the future of internet computing, saying, "I believe that the internet is following the same path."
We were shown an example using an Intel MID (Mobile Internet Device) prototype tested in a Beijing street scene where software on the device would audibly and visually translate building signs, restaurant menus and conversations in real-time. "We had what we needed when we needed it. What was even better is that it's all real."
OK, so Otellini did say that the demo needed to be powered by PCs working behind the scenes, but this is truly innovative tech. "We saw the internet bringing information seamlessly...it was all context aware.
"Increasingly, computing and communications are coming together," said the Intel chief. "The personal internet of tomorrow will serve you - delivering the information you want, when you want it, how you want, wherever you are.
"We're now in the midst of the largest opportunity to redefine consumer electronics and entertainment since the introduction of the television."
The obstacles to personalisation
He then outlined four obstacles to this. First, there's the silicon. They need to do more, but consume less power. Then, there's the challenge of the 'everywhere internet'; Intel hopes we'll plump for WiMAX on that front. Thirdly, there's the challenge of creating more natural user interfaces.
"The opportunity lies in creating these next generation products, services and business models - but first we all need to overcome the obstacles I just listed," Otellini said,
Otellini spoke briefly about the opportunity presented by Intel's 45nm process technology, the High-K process and Halfnium material.
He gave some interesting stats to reinforce his point, saying that if Intel still manufactured chips with the same size transistors as on its first processor, the latest Core 2 Extreme chip would be six square metres in size and would use the same amount of energy as 200 US households. Intel now cranks out 2 billion transistors a second, apparently.
Canmore can do more
Then, Otellini gave a first-time demo to Intel's previously announced System-on-a-Chip (SOC) technology. The processor is codenamed Canmore and Intel hopes it will power a whole raft of intelligent set-top boxes. The processor can play full 1080p video with 7.1 surround sound and also boasts a 3D graphics unit.
"Packaging several important functions - such as computing, graphics and audio-video processing - into a single chip will help devices do more while taking up less space and energy," commented Otellini.
Otellini demonstrated internet applications running on a Toshiba-developed MID using Adobe's AIR runtime. The Menlow concept will ship later this year. According to Intel press sources, the single chip design will consume 10 times less power than an ultra low voltage chip from two years ago.
Once Otellini had finished outlining his vision for the future internet, we had some practical demos to chew upon. Otellini was joined by Steve Harwell, lead singer of the band Smash Mouth. First, we saw Harwell joined by his bandmates over the internet using a way to jam in time with each other. The eJamming system uses peer-to-peer and takes account of net delays - though there is near-zero latency (apparently).
Next we were shown BigStage.com, which can create a 3D avatar from three digital images. Finally, OrganicMotion showed us a way in which Harwell was filmed by 14 cameras and the motion translated onto a PC. The result was that we saw a virtual reality representation of Harwell and his bandmates playing in a garage.
Impressive technology yes, but it didn't quite live up to the impression Otellini had already made.
To finish, he quoted Intel founder Robert Noyce, who said: "Don't be encumbered by history, go off and do something wonderful."
"Now's the time to embrace the opportunity," challenged Otellini before leaving the stage. He even gave us a wave.