Gates Heralds Microsofts Place in Digital Lifestyle

Updated: During his opening CES keynote, Microsoft's chairman says consumers are embracing digital technologies as he announces more Windows support in TVs, DVD players/recorders and other devices.

LAS VEGAS—Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates may have been heralding the "digital lifestyle" Wednesday during his International Consumer Electronics Show keynote here, but his on-stage demonstrations proved that technology remains error-prone.

The kickoff address from Gates was riddled with demo glitches ranging from a marred digital-photo slideshow to a memory error that crashed an Xbox game. On the bright side, the miscues gave Gates celebrity guest plenty of fodder for jokes.

Conan OBrien of "The Late Show" joined Gates on stage, opening the keynote with a monologue and then sitting down with Gates to lead him through his presentation.

In one routine, Gates and OBrien were demonstrating a Wi-Fi-enabled digital camera, the Nikon D2X, that downloads photos to a Windows PC as they are taken. But when Gates tried to show a photo slideshow on the large screen behind him, nothing would appear.

"Whos in charge of Microsoft?" OBrien quipped, before turning to Gates, "Oh."

Throughout his keynote, Gates pointed to evidence for the emergence of a digital lifestyle, such as the wide availability of technologies aimed at consumers. At the same time, consumers are now willing to choose a digital tool for everything from taking photos to listening to music, he said.

"This has been a great year of moving toward the digital lifestyle, and its gone faster than we even expected," Gates said.

Gates outlined Microsofts focus on five categories in consumer technology: music; memories, which largely relates to digital photography; TV and movies; communication; and gaming.

But beyond broad themes, Gates brought out Microsoft product managers to announce new consumer electronics that embed and support Windows technology. The announcements focused on how digital content can be shared between consumer electronics products, such as TVs and DVD player/recorders, and Windows-based PCs and mobile devices.

Last year at CES, Microsoft launched Windows Media Center Extender, which lets Windows XP Media Center PCs connect with TVs and set-top boxes. It also announced Windows Media Connect for sharing digital media between electronic devices and Windows XP PCs.

This year, Gates used his keynote to announce further momentum behind those two Windows extensions.

Sean Alexander, a Windows group product manager, showed a 40-inch LCD TV coming from Digitrex Pty. Ltd. this year that supports Windows Media Connect. The TV can play back digital media such as photos and music from networked Windows XP PCs, he said.

On the DVD front, Alexander announced an LG Electronics Inc. DVD player-recorder that incorporates Windows code and supports Windows Media Connect for digital media and the Media Center Extender for linking with Media Center PCs.

The DVD player-recorder also includes a hard drive for recording digital video.


PC Magazine Editor in Chief Michael Miller expressed some concerns over Microsofts Windows Media strategy at last years CES.

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In addition, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., is striking new partnerships for digital content.

Piggybacking on TiVo Inc.s announcement earlier this week of TiVoToGo for transferring recorded shows to laptops and PCs, Gates announced that Windows Mobile devices also will support playback of TiVo-recorded shows.

MTV Networks has struck a deal with Microsoft to offer digital content such as music for download to Windows Mobile devices including smart phones, Pocket PCs and Portable Media Centers, Gates said.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments from the keynote.


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