Notes from Gates CES 2008 Keynote

Well, the time difference is wreaking havoc on me. It’s 5:30AM here and I haven’t been able to sleep for the past hour so I figured I’d try to be useful and report to you some interesting things from the Gates keynote, presuming my shoddy internet connection stays up (thanks Luxor!) and that I don’t fall asleep at the keyboard.

To start off, because Bill will be stepping down from his day to day duties at Microsoft later this year, the folks at Microsoft put together a clever video about what that last day would be like. Fortunately, they’ve posted the video to Microsoft’s Soapbox:


Video: Bill Gates Last Day CES Clip

The underlying theme for the rest of the keynote was about Bill asking people for other jobs. It was funny, but I thought somewhat unfortunate that no one really highlighted the amazing work he’s going to be focusing on.

A few specific announcements that may be of interest:

  • Content deals: for the XBox Live online component of the gaming console, Microsoft announced partnership with ABC / Disney to have television content available for download to XBoxes. MGMs movies will also be available for download. There wasn’t specific word on what the resolutions (HD or lower resolution) of this content would be, but I believe that at least some of NBC’s XBox downloadable content is HD, so no reason to believe ABC would skimp. Microsoft claims with these deals, they will be providing twice as much on-demand content than any cable or satellite provider. Hope the ISPs don’t degrade their bandwidth and allow them to provide it.

  • DVR Anywhere: Microsoft Media Center content on one box in the house would be available for DVR-like viewing anywhere else in the house on supported devices. There were announcements that Media Center Extender technology would be embedded in Samsung and HP displays that presumably would allow for this, so no extra boxes would be needed to attach. Speaking of boxes, British Telecom will be the first telco to use the XBox 360 as a TV set top box, and provide IPTV using Microsoft’s technology.

  • Image Recognition: Bill Gates demoed some cutting edge technology being developed at Microsoft Research. Imagine using a video camera phone and anything you pointed it at, the phone recognized and gave you information on it. Bill pointed the camera at one of his executives on stage and the system not only recognized him, but gave him the ability to see appointments that he had with him and that he owed him 20 bucks. Pointing the device at a simulated outdoor landscape, the software recognized Las Vegas hotels, provided embedded advertisements when pointed at a movie theater and step-by-step video directions to recognized restaurants. The recognition of these places appeared to be live and not a pre-recorded video (of course it was a demo, so the recognition database was pre-populated) but the point is that this was some dramatically advanced 3D image recognition. If this is what could be done with way more advanced 3D stuff, imagine what can and is already being done with simple image matching and identification that could be applied to the problem of orphan works. I’ll be asking the folks at Microsoft about this more later today.

I think that’s about it from the Gates pre-show keynote. Yesterday was a long day and today’s set to be another one. I’ll be attending a consumer symposium with the folks at Microsoft for part of the day and Sherwin will be getting acquainted with the show floor and some of the panels (Gigi will be speaking on one of them). There are a few keynotes later today that I hope to cover as well. And there will be parties—the first of which is a Digital Freedom Campaign event tonight. Hopefully I won’t pass out by then!

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