[CES] Gates Keynote

BillG was the keynote speaker at CES for the 6th year in a row. He had lots to talk about. I’m not going to talk about everything– for in depth coverage, I’d check out Paul Thurrott’s full CES coverage– I’m just covering the stuff that I’m personally interested in. (After all, this is a blog, not a news site.)

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<li>New MSN and MSN Premium: The new MSN looks pretty good. Lots of broadband content (with auto-sensing of whether or not you’re on a broadband connection– very nice!), the new UI looks cleaner and better. A good update. However, the real meat is the MSN Premium, which adds a ton of security features, Exchange-like calendar/task/contact sharing, and some compelling digital photo sharing features. Not sure if it is worth $99/year, but it does look like a pretty nice package. We’ll see.
</li><li>SPOT Technology and MSN Direct: ** Microsoft’s SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) provides a platform for connected devices. The first rollout of this technology is in the wristwatch form factor. It’s pretty cool– you can view current weather, stocks, news, etc. information on your watch, as well as have it set its own time based on an atomic clock, which is always nice. It also knows where you are, so weather and timezones are handled automatically. Pretty cool. However, the real winner in my eyes is the ability to receive (but not send) instant messages on your watch. And connectivity is pretty ubiquitous– it is piggybacking on FM radio transmissions. Paul bought me one as an X-MAS present… I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve played with it a bit.
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Windows Media Center Extenders**: OK, this was the big hit of the show for me, at least. (Rach and I have a Media Center PC in our living room, so this is something that I’ve wanted to see for some time.) Microsoft announced the Media Center Extenders, which provide access to the (excellent) Media Center UI from a set top box, allowing you to put the Media Center PC in the den, but watch it on any TV in the house. VERY nice. Networking is handled by ethernet or WiFi… although I’m curious how they handle WiFi– unless they are transcoding the audio/video data in real time and streaming it, there isn’t nearly enough bandwidth in 802.11b to handle a DVR-MS stream, and even with 802.11g there would be serious quality of service issues. However, I’m pretty excited about this. (We talked about this in the car on the way home: if they hit a $200 price point with the extender, it will be killer… any more would be just too much.) Also very cool: you’ll be able to buy a kit that will allow you to use your X-Box as a Media Center Extender! The kit will come with a remote and software. Very cool. Finally, they demonstrated a big screen TV that had the Extender functionality built-in… very cool if you own a Media Center PC and are in the market for a new TV. (I think there are probably at least 2 or 3 people in that demographic.) :)
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All in all, not a bad keynote. They also showed some Microsoft Research projects that (if they were in the pipeline instead of in the crystal ball) would totally revolutionize how we interact with our media libraries. Wow. I can’t even describe this stuff. I hope that they productize this technology at some point– it was truly brilliant.

Tomorrow, my day is PACKED with meetings with folks from MS. I’ll try to blog throughout the day, but no guarantees.