| Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at the Las Vegas show on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Las Vegas, Jan. 5: Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates outlined his vision for the future of consumer technology in a major speech on Wednesday night at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas as he unveiled an array of new products aimed at the growing appetite for digital entertainment.
During his speech, Gates painted a picture of a digital world in which many devices, including cellphones, computers and televisions, seamlessly complement one another.
“Technology has revolutionised how we listen to music, watch TV, play games, communicate and manage and share personal information,” he said. “2006 is going to be a big year for the digital lifestyle.”
He demonstrated a computerised wall easel for the home that can show television images, keep track of family members and interact with an office computer. He also showed a phone that can make calls over standard phone lines and calls using voice over Internet protocol technology.
Gates’s address is one of the most closely watched events at the annual trade show, where more than 2,500 exhibitors, from A-Data Technology Inc. to Zyxel Communications Corp., hope they have dreamed up the next hit.
Even though Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. are getting a lot of attention for their latest innovations, many still regard Gates as the ultimate geek. He has addressed the convention every year for the past decade.
On Wednesday night, those hoping to hear his address in person at the Las Vegas Hilton had to wait in a long line that snaked through the hotel’s casino floor, past a bar where patrons watched the Rose Bowl. Attendees whiled away the time in line by playing with gadgets they brought with them.
Microsoft advertised Gates’s speech prominently on its website, displaying a picture of the founder of the $40 billion software company with his eyes gazing at the horizon. Beside his image is the question “What’s the next big thing'”
Trying to sort the wheat from the chaff is a perilous task for the scores of executives, analysts and journalists who flock to Las Vegas for the show and ' if the past is any guide ' it is not much easier for the chairman of the world’s dominant software company.
In 2001, Gates used his speech to offer a glimpse of the Xbox video game console ' a product that became a home run for Microsoft. Three years ago, he waxed enthusiastic about a Dick Tracy-like wristwatch designed to deliver such information as weather reports and sports scores, but the product has yet to catch fire.
His speech on Wednesday night came as Microsoft wrestles with the latest Windows security flaw and the rising threat from Google. Gates’s keynote did not address either of those issues.
He did discuss the new Windows Vista operating system and showed off some of its features, including quicker content searches and an upgraded media player. The program is scheduled to be released later this year, but Gates did not say when.