CES Kickoff: Gates Expands Digital Decade with Seamless Computing "In another sleep-inducing keynote address that belied the importance and excitement of his intended message, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates opened the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a preview of the home-oriented products his company will release throughout the year and beyond.
Portable Media Center--a new generation of portable media devices, shipping this year from several companies, that will include the Media Center UI and will feature compatibility with all the digital-media formats that Media Center PCs can consume and generate, including recorded TV. "The Portable Media Center [won't] just have your music on it, it's going to have your movies there, movies for your kids, the movies you like; you just find it on the Web, download it, off you go, and it's available. That's because the hard-disk capacity, battery life, cheap LCD screens--those have all come together," Gates said. "This device is small enough to fit in your pocket, has a big enough screen to enjoy movies, and is about the same weight as a wallet, so finally you have something in a great device that takes all of your media with you," Alles added. "And it's not just those recorded shows like we talked about; it's also your music, your photos, and your videos--whether those videos are home videos or a downloaded film from the Internet."
One aspect of Gates's talk that probably won't get a lot of press but deserves to be applauded is the vast number of partners that Microsoft is involving in its various consumer-related products. Gates mentioned the 45 partners that are creating Media Center PCs; the various companies that are providing high-quality video content for MSN and MSN Premium; the companies that are producing SPOT watches, the numerous retail locations at which you can purchase those watches, and the hundreds of metro areas in which the watches can connect to back-end services; the 80 companies that are producing Smartphone devices; the movie companies that are supporting the high-resolution Windows Media Audio (WMA) high-definition video format on specially formatted DVD movies; the companies that are making Portable Media Center devices and Windows Media Center Extender set-top boxes; and the dizzying array of consumer electronics and computer companies that are producing the various hardware, software, and service-oriented offerings that make all these products come together in a truly connected home. The level of cooperation Microsoft engenders with its partners stands in sharp contrast to the digital-hub strategies that some of the company's competitors have proposed and highlights the true diversity and choices we expect from the PC industry. Seeing this business model coming to the consumer electronics industry is exciting. If Gates's keynote address is any indication, 2004 is going to be a milestone year for home computing."