Microsoft head man Bill Gates gave his annual keynote speech later on Sunday night at the Consumer Electronics Show. Gates is set to retire from day-to-day activities from Microsoft in mid-2008 to concentrate on his charitable efforts. Gates joked at the beginning of the keynote that he will be back for CES 2008 but for the 2009 CES keynote he might talk more about diseases than devices.
Of course, Windows Vista is set to be released to the consumer on January 30 and during the keynote new Vista features were shown off. One feature is plugging in an Xbox 360 controller to a Vista PC. Not only can you play games with the controller, a demo was shown that used the controller to handle a flyby of a 3D version of Las Vegas using Google Earth, complete with real time traffic information. A new feature of the Vista Media Center was also shown; Sports Lounge. In this demo not only can you watch sports on TV but the Media Center version gives you scores and even stats on players (perfect for fantasy football users). The familiar desktop themes from Windows 95 and Windows XP can also be expanded via Vista. A demo was shown that put in full motion video for your desktop and have that video become part of your Vista background.
Later in the keynote Gates showed off the HP Media Smart Server (due out in the second half of 2007) that uses Windows Vista. The new line of Windows Home Servers is designed specifically for the consumer. The server will be able to store terabytes of content that can be accessed to other home PCs as well as devices like the Zune and Xbox 360. Gates then introduced Robbie Bach, the head of Microsoft's Entertainment division (which includes Games for Windows and Xbox 360). Bach talked first about their partnership with MTV on their Urge online music services. Bach also talked about Zune which he said was the number 2 music player and is on track to sell 1 million units (no specific date to reach that number was revealed). Windows Mobile devices like smartphones from a variety of companies are currently outselling the Blackberry system, according to Bach.
Bach then talked about gaming. First he talked about the PC Games for Windows program. A video was then shown that had footage from a number of mostly upcoming games including Hellgate London, Crysis, Bioshock and more. One interesting video showed Geometry Wars, the popular Xbox Live Arcade game, on a PC, which is the first indication that this popular Xbox 360 game will be coming to the PC at some point.
Bach then talked about the Xbox 360, confirming earlier reports that Microsoft has shipped 10.4 million consoles worldwide so far. The previously released pre-rendered Halo 3 trailer was shown to the CES keynote audience (sorry, no new footage). Xbox Live membership has now reached 5 million members, according to Bach. A new live demo of how Xbox 360 and Windows users will play with each other was then shown as a person played a Windows Vista version of UNO and then goes to a friends list on Vista to find another person who is playing the same game on an Xbox 360 so they can play with them. Bach said this kind of function will go live this summer.
Bach then talked about the HD-DVD movie disk drive for the Xbox 360, saying that the drive was a big seller but not taking about actual sales figures. He also talked about downloading HD movies and TV episodes via Xbox 360 (Lionsgate is the latest movie studio to offer movie titles for the Xbox 360 service). Microsoft also announced that their IPTV cable service will work with the Xbox 360 to deliver cable TV content to the Xbox 360. The service will be made available sometime this year via cable TV companies.
After the speech, we headed to Caesar’s Palace to attend the separate Digital Experience event. It's not officially affiliated with the Consumer Electronics Show but Pepcom' own mini-electronics show had over 100 exhibitors with table top exhibits that showed off their products including some that will officially debut today at CES. Some of the highlights included HP showing off their Home Media Center prototype at the event that was first shown at the Microsoft keynote. The server, which will run on Vista's home server software, can hold up to four hard drives inside its casing and can hold even more hard drives with its four USB ports. The Home Media Center will be released this fall. The ultra portable PC computer company OQO also showed off a new version of their product, the OQO model 2. The new device has a 1.5 Ghz processor, a 60 GB hard drive, WiFi, Bluetooth, EDVO and 1 GB of memory yet weights about 1 pound. Saitek showed off their upcoming and very impressive looking X52 Pro flight sim joystick and throttle. Priced at $199, the new flight control set up for serious PC flight sim players is due out later this month with backlit buttons, military style materials and programmable buttons. Velocity Micro showed off its upcoming Vista-based Media Center PC with support for several internal hard drives, an aluminum casing and support for HD recording. It will be released around the time Vista is released. We even saw a jukebox with an iPod jack.