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Gates Shows Vista Off to the Masses at CES Las Vegas

The focus of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is, as you might expect, consumer electronics. But amid the smart watches, television-ready cell phones and movie download services were a few tidbits sure to impact IT in the coming year.

Most notably was another round of opening the kimono a wee bit more on Windows Vista by Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates. However, many of the features shown off during Gates’ opening keynote on Wednesday night have already been nearly overexposed.

For instance, in what Microsoft billed as “the first broad demonstration of Windows Vista for consumers,” Gates demoed new 3D navigation technology for maneuvering among scads of open browser and application windows, which the company has codenamed Flip 3D. Never mind that technical preview participants and beta testers have been experimenting with the feature for months already.

Still, being able to view all open windows as a stack of 3D images and to switch quickly among them by scrolling through using either the arrow keys or the mouse will likely be an improvement over using the Alt and Tab keys to jump between nameless icons.

Referring to this as the “digital decade,” Gates highlighted how much the Redmond company has riding on the coming year, given that the company can continue to execute on its promises on the tough timetable it has set.

“This is the year that [Windows] Vista, Office 12 and many other products will come out, and the realization of [Windows] Media Center as a volume mainstream product will really be clear to everyone in the marketplace,” Gates told the audience. “Consumers are getting more and more connected. They're getting richer experiences, and software is really at the center of that.”

Gates described how, in his vision of the future, he would be able to use his mobile phone to operate the equivalent of a full-blown PC at an airport while on the road. “What I'm going to do is take a business card that somebody handed me while I was on this flight, and just put that down on the table there, and the camera scans that, detects it's there, recognizes it…and then I can take that and say, OK, go ahead and put that into my contacts,” he added.

This will be the year that Microsoft has to deliver Vista, Office 12, Internet Explorer 7, and the company’s search capabilities or lose more ground to key competitors -- Google and Firefox, among them. Recent figures show, for instance, that PC sales volumes continue to swell while Microsoft’s share of the browser market has now slipped to about 85 percent, ceding a full 10 percent to Firefox.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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