Right this minute, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is taking the stage to face the adoring throngs at CES for the last time. Before he moves on to the greater task of solving the world's problems, he will look back on his previous keynotes, talk about where Microsoft is headed, and make a few final announcements. Here are the Cliff's Notes to his last CES speech ever:
Bill appears and after a brief state-of-the-industry intro, notes that this is his final CES appearance. He'll look back on some of his previous experiences, noting how far we've progressed since he declared the "Digital Decade" in 2001 for three reasons:
1. The promulgation of lower-cost HD displays and soon interactive surfaces.
2. Mobile intelligence - cellular and GPS enabled products that help us get through the day
3. Interaction with technology increasingly mirroring the way we interact with people
First announcement: NBC Universal is making MSN the exclusive home for NBC's coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in China. It's the first "long tail" Olympics: there will be thousands of hours of content available at nbcolympics.com, ranging from the most popular sports to the most obscure—from basketball to badminton. The video will be both live and on demand, with over 30 simultaneous live broadcasts; 2,200 hours of live broacasting and 3,000 hours of on-demand content. All of the video will be shared in Silverlight format in "near HD" quality.
Hands-on: Never-before-seen demo of the Surface table. In this demo, Bill designs a snowboard for himself—yes, a snowboard—using multitouch technology to try out different designs, then save them to his Windows Mobile phone and share with his friends. I only wonder what his insurance company thinks about his snowboarding plans.
Robbie Bach, Microsoft's President of Entertainment & Devices Division, will take the stage to cover the bulk of the presentation, talking about:
• Xbox's banner year - 17.5 million Xbox 360 units sold; 7 titles surpassing 1 million sales mark; U.S. users spent more on Xbox 360 in 2007 than more on any other game console ever
• TV show deal with ABC Television and Disney Channel for Xbox Live programming, available for direct download to Xbox 360. It includes 500 hours of content, in standard and high def, available at the end of the month, with shows such as Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, plus Disney shows including Hannah Montana.
• Movie deal with MGM - Xbox will offer MGM films in standard def and high def including the entire Rocky series, Terminator, Dances With Wolves, Silence of the Lambs, Legally Blond, Barber Shop and the Bond franchise.
• New application for Microsoft's Media Room IPTV, distributed by AT&T U-Verse: On TNT, NASCAR fans can choose a view of the race from the camera inside their favorite driver's car via their set-top box; Showtime boxing will let you choose camera angle and audio feeds from the trainer, ref, or the commentators; in CNN's coverage of US presidential campaign, viewers can vote on issues, gauging voter opinion in realtime.
• Media Center Extender support is growing in the consumer-electronics industry, led by Samsung, which will be working on a connected TV with MCE capability.
• Zune 2 off to a good start, with 1.5 million people starting Zune social fan pages since the service began in November. Bach will announce the availability of the Zune in Canada, the first distribution outside the US.
When Bill takes the stage again, he will demonstrate a "device of the future," something that won't necessarily become a product sold by Microsoft, but still a good glimpse of things to come. The device will ostensibly store and catalog all of Bill's memories so that he can pull up a reel of all his past CES keynotes. At one point, he will snap a picture of the Venetian auditorium and the gadget will recognize the venue, proposing various recreational activities he might enjoy after the keynote.
This is a rough sketch of the proceedings, one that's bound to change considerably. I'm told there will be some surprises—maybe a celebrity guest or some farewell treat. Who knows? That's why we plan to catch the whole event, and fill in any gaps that may be missing from this otherwise thorough digest. (You're welcome.) [Microsoft at CES]