CES 2007: Gates welcomes digital experiences

Bill Gates opened CES 2007 with his now traditional keynote on Sunday evening in Las Vegas' plush Venetian resort and announced a variety of new concepts including Windows Home Server software technology and IPTV via the Xbox 360.

Gates spoke of the 'connected experiences' which now shape our world. He talked about the key thing now missing is the connections. And this isn't just about hardware: "The content people now need to think about how they connect into this environment," said Gates.

Microsoft's chairman also hailed Vista as the most important release of Windows. "It's also the best". Gates also said that Vista and the PC continue to have a central role today, but that the appeal isn't just restricted to the 'consumer' because the experiences span into workplaces.

"The tools of creativity are on the PC" he said as he lauded the five million downloads of Vista RC1. Gates also talked of the huge investment in Vista and the 60 years of collected experiences of users.

Justin Hutchison, Group Product manager at Microsoft demonstrated Vista, Office and Windows Live. Disappointingly, he started with search. Like we haven't seen it before. Then he looked at Office, with its live preview function.

So far, so old

Hutchison then looked at Windows Live featuring Virtual Earth, and drew gasps from the audience as he used an Xbox 360 controller to move around Las Vegas in 3D.

He also announced new content partnerships for Media Center with organisations such as Nickelodeon and took the wraps of Windows Vista Ultimate Extras, bolt on downloadable utilities for Windows Vista Ultimate.

He demonstrated GroupShot. This utility combines photos together, so two photos of two people can be combined. Full motion video desktop wallpapers are also possible with Dreamscene. Trust us, this looks fantastic, but you'll need to have a kick ass graphics card to use it.

Gates talked of the new Windows Vista PC designs. The HP TouchSmart PC enables you to select photos to print and interact in other ways. He also talked of the Toshiba Portege R400 tablet, tiny Sony Vaio VGX-TP1 and Medion UMPC as new Vista form factors. These new machines are timed for the Vista launch.

Home Server introduced

The tone of the keynote then changed and Gates talked of Windows Home Server, a partnership with HP. There's automated backup. There's remote connectivity from outside the home. You can also grow the capacity by plugging new drives in. The server self-backs up. AMD and Intel are also building reference designs.

"We think it's a category that can explode," said Gates.

He then spoke of connected entertainment. Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment devices division at Microsoft spoke of community and its relevance to entertainment. Bach said Microsoft is the second in the music player market with Zune. Wonder who's first? You can't knock Bach's confidence though: "You're going to see us in this space in the leadership position in years to come," he said. As if we didn't know...

Bach also announced that Windows Mobile Smartphones now outsell Blackberres.

Bach then spoke about the Games for Windows initiative and its relevance for both casual and committed gamers with Vista and DirectX 10. There are 200 million Windows-based gamers globally according to Bach.

Bach also announced figures which places Microsoft as "the leader in this next generation of gaming." 10.4 million Xbox 360 consoles have now been sold across 37 countries. 2.7 million copies have now been sold of Gears of War. There will be 300 titles by the end of 2007. Oh, and Halo 3 looks pretty amazing.

Bach called Xbox Live "the biggest social network on the TV." It now has over five million members. Xbox Live was also demonstrated via an Xbox 360 controller running on Windows Vista. It's pretty clever, but as Bach says, "it's a simple concept."

The service will roll out over the summer.

The Xbox 360 HD DVD drives are "continuing to sell out." Bach talked of the 30 million Media Center PCs sold and how they're being used with Xbox 360 as a Media Center extender. More content partnerships were also announced for Xbox 360's Video Marketplace.

Pushing IPTV

Bach talked of Microsoft TV - the IPTV solution. In the UK, Microsoft is in partnership with BT for BT Vision before introducing IPTV running on the Xbox 360. It will be available by the end of 2007.

Gates returned to talk about a partnership with Ford to use Microsoft's voice-activated Auto platform though this is limited to the US at the moment. It's pretty cool though, you can even have texts read to you as you drive. Personalised playlists can also be created from what's on your phone, Zune or iPod.

Gates closed by looking to the future and what 'connected experience' will mean going forward. We were shown some visions from Micrsooft's 'connected home of the future.'

A bus stop scenario was shown where you can be delivered specific details about your route. Then, a kitchen scenario brought a projected recipe. There's a full list of ingredients which will be checked for availability in your cupboard. A large bedroom screen displayed different pictures or movies like wallpaper.

This is Gates the visionary. "The idea of connected experiences can go way beyond what we've got this year. We can take this powerful software, building on what's available this year, and take it to a new level. There are some fun challenges ahead for the hardware and software business."


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site T3.com. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.