Bill Gates’ final Microsoft keynote speech

Alison Young
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January 11, 2008
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Bill Gates
Bill Gates

I’ve been having a good start to my new year since I flew up to Las Vegas for this year’s 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Next week I’ll be trekking to Macworld in San Francisco, but as I’m writing this I just watched Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates give the last keynote speech of his Microsoft career.

He started by going over what Windows has done in the last 25 years, and the fact that he will step down from Microsoft in July to focus more on his philanthropic efforts with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “It’s going to be a bit strange - what to do on my last day - so I asked some of my friends to help prepare me for that,” Gates said right before he played a video. It featured humorous comments and jokes from all types of well-known faces from singer Bono to Sen. Barack Obama to actor George Clooney.

Gates went on to outline his vision for the next digital decade, an era in which dramatic advances in hardware and software will make the power of computing a part of your day-to-day life. He referred to High-Definition experiences being around everywhere, and services-connected devices running on the web accessible via the Internet.

A part of this will be the 2008 Olympics. It will be easy to follow with the Microsoft-NBC announcement that NBC will deliver the Olympics live and on-demand with, the official U.S. online home of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. With this you’ll have access to more than 3,000 hours of live and on-demand content to watch your favorite athlete or sport. This service will be free and powered by Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering video experiences on the web.

The stage was then handed over to Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division, who discussed a variety of items including Xbox 360 success, the Zune launching in Canada this spring, Vista selling more than 100 million licenses, and ABC, Disney Channel Programs and MGM adding its library of hit movies to Xbox LIVE.

Under agreement with the Disney-ABC Television Group, later this month Xbox LIVE members will have access to select TV shows and movies. With MGM’s agreement, titles such as Rocky, Terminator, Legally Blonde, Barbershop and more are available on-demand. So far there are about 10 million Xbox LIVE members out there.

Robbie Bach
Robbie Bach

Additionally, Bach announced that Samsung will support Extender for Windows Media Center, which enables TVs to stream HD content from any Windows Vista PC with Windows Media Center over a wired or wireless (N) network. This builds on the recent beta release of Windows Media Center Internet TV, which offers more than 100 hours of ad-supported entertainment from MSN video.

The finale - and the best part of the keynote - was a Guitar Hero III sound-off between Gates and Bach. Each brought in a ringer. Gates’ was Slash (lead guitarist of Velvet Revolver and former lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses), and Bach’s was Tipper Queen, a top-ranking Guitar Hero player. Anyway, it was cool that I was able to see Bill in person before he steps down from Microsoft. That was a nice kickoff to CES, nothing too earth-shattering, but we’ll see what the rest of the show has to offer.

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