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Gates Begins His Long Goodbye

In what is the beginning of the end of an era, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates gave his last keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last month. As is his tradition the last eight years, Gates, who leaves full-time work at Microsoft this July, took the opportunity to share his vision of where he believes technology is headed and how Microsoft will participate and help materialize that vision.

Discussing the direction of consumer technologies, Gates said continued advances in connectivity, user interfaces, and high-definition video and audio will be the driving forces in that market for the next 10 years.

"The first digital decade has been a great success. The second digital decade will be more focused on connecting people. It will be more user-centric," Gates said.

Gates predicts the key element over the next 10 years will be the "natural user interface," one that will permit users to interact with a range of devices in a more natural way. He surprised many by mentioning the iPhone from archrival Apple Inc., with its sophisticated touch screen as a harbinger of things to come.

Turning to products and technologies coming in the nearer future, Gates said Microsoft had reported that Samsung would be offering an adapter for its flat-screen televisions to act as Media Center extenders. This would let consumers run TV shows, pictures and music stored on a Windows Vista-based desktop or notebook located in a different room. As for more innovative PCs, Gates said his company would show off ASUSTeK Computer Inc.'s new Lamborghini notebook along with Lenovo's new IdeaPad.

Perhaps the most notable gadget Gates showed off was the "mobile navigator," a device people can use to point at a person or place and obtain more information. Right now, the technology driving the product lives only in Microsoft's research labs. Gates said he doesn't see the technology coming to market as a standalone product. He indicated that some of it would likely find its way into digital cameras and phones.

Updating conference attendees on existing products, Gates said the company has now shipped 100 million copies of Windows Vista after just 11 months of availability.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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