Gates bids adieu to CES, sense of humor intact

In swan song, Microsoft co-founder foresees greater digital era ahead

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Other offerings that were on display that tie together multiple services and devices also showed that Gates' connected services vision is coming into focus. A demo during the keynote showed how users can take photos from within a Windows Live hosted service and post them seamlessly to a blog or e-mail them to friends. Another showed how users can purchase movie tickets on a Windows Mobile device using voice commands and then text-message those tickets to other mobile devices.

Microsoft also showed some progress on the Zune media-player front, even though many people still view the device as a poor competitor to Apple's enormously popular line of iPods. During the keynote, Microsoft introduced Zune Social, an online community where Zune users can share playlists, track what their friends are listening to on their own devices and connect automatically to the Zune Marketplace to purchase songs.

Toward the end of Gates' keynote, he and Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices division, demonstrated a prototype device from Microsoft Research that seemed to represent the culmination of the company's connected-device strategy. The device used visual recognition to identify people and places in its line of "sight" and remind users of events related to them. For example, when Gates aimed the device at Bach, the device identified him and reminded Gates that Bach owed him $20. However, information neither Gates nor Bach could provide was how long it would take for such a device to be fully developed and released.

When all was said and done on Sunday, Gates ended his CES legacy not with a bang but a whimper, allowing a special guest star to steal what would have been his final CES thunder.

During what was poised to be a $20 contest between Gates and Bach on the popular Guitar Hero game, Gates instead introduced a ringer to take his place -- former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash. As the shaggy-haired guitarist played a loud riff from the band's song "Welcome to the Jungle," Gates stood smiling on the stage and let Bach say the final goodbye, assuring attendees that he, at least, would be back again next year.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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