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CES keynote: Bill Gates presents vision of hi-definition decade

The “next digital decade” will be distinguished by an expanding HD, or high-definition, experience, said Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corporation, delivering his eleventh and final keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Bill Gates at CESGates, who will retire from his full time position as chairman of Microsoft in July, will shift his focus to charitable work on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates marked the occasion with a humorous sketch featuring friends including former Vice President Al Gore, rapper/producer Jay Z and U2 front man Bono.

In his presentation, Gates predicted that displays will be everywhere, including walls and desks. In addition, all devices will be service-connected, which will relieve users from having to bridge between content and devices. Gates noted that next digital decade also will see the power of the natural user interface take hold, with “touch” technology and speech recognition appearing in more products.

Gates also announced a major partnership with NBC, in which MSN will be the exclusive online provider of live, on demand footage from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Over 3,000 hours of footage will be available at

Gates introduced on stage Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division. Bach reported on the tremendous momentum of Xbox Live, which has surpassed 10 million members. Bach also announced a partnership with MGM, in which the entertainment company will provide a library of films for Xbox Live.

Building from the growing success of Microsoft’s partnership with Ford for Sync, the in-car entertainment and communication system, Bach announced the expansion of Sync to Ford’s Lincoln and Mercury brands.

The final pre-show keynote by Gates, as well as innovative product launches and partnership announcements, created a buzz among attendees on the eve of the 2008 International CES. Produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the 2008 International CES, the world’s largest tradeshow for consumer technology, opened on Monday in Las Vegas and runs through January 10.

“The pre-CES events generated excitement among attendees and individuals around the world for the innovations and new technologies that will launch this week from the International CES show floor,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. “With 2,700 companies spanning 1.85 million net square feet of exhibit space, the largest in CES history, the 2008 International CES is an amazing, global event for consumer technology. Attendees at this year’s show will experience digital entertainment combined with new content and services, along with the latest technology products to create the ultimate consumer experience.”

On Saturday evening, the fourth annual CES Unveiled, the official press event of the International CES, kicked off the pre-CES media events at the Sands Expo and the Venetian. Featuring 70 exhibitors, CES Unveiled showcased the latest technologies and innovations in robotics, home theater, digital imaging, sustainable technologies and more.

On Sunday, CES’ Press Day, 12 exhibitor press conferences took place and CES exhibitors, including LG, Pioneer, Philips, Sharp, Monster Cable and Toshiba, made major company announcements and launched new products during their press events.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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