For eight years in a row now, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been the darling of CES, with his right-on pronouncement in 2000 that 75 percent of U.S. households would have PCs by 2010 and his not-so-right on prognostication that the tablet PC would be the most popular form of computer. That would fall under the category of really wrong, since last year tablet sales were barely over 1 percent of overall PC sales.
Gates' introduction as keynote speaker in 2008 started with a video that seemed to focus on the Xbox and its fairly obvious Microsoft is thinking this is the big ticket to consumers' living rooms.
Gates talked a bit about the first digital decade and how successful it's been, but first he digressed to discuss his last day at Microsoft this coming July.
There were appearances from a number of friends, including NBC's Brian Williams and Matthew Perry as his personal trainer. Jay-Z discussed the ability to retire and un-retire. Then there was Bono backstage, emphasizing the limited space in U2 and the fact that Bill's skill on Guitar Hero did not necessarily qualify him to be a part of the band. There was even a conversation about co-hosting the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the idea of running for president with senators Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama and a discussion about whether it was an “inconvenient time” to talk to Al Gore. Finally, as he left on his last full day, forgetful Bill left the box on top of the car and drove off, leaving his belongings strewn along the roadway.
But back to the connected experience, where applications will run everywhere, not just on the PC, services that will span work and business.
High-definition will be everywhere. The quality of 3D environments will enhance the Web experience, Gates says. It will require high-quality video and audio. And every one of the devices, says Gates, will be connected.
Organizing memories and files will be a necessity. Devices will know your content and location.
The power of natural user interface—the emergence of touch (and he shockingly mentioned the iPhone here) gestures, and new ways to navigate with your devices that don't include a keyboard or a mouse also figure into Gates' vision.
Windows, not surprisingly, will be a key building block, which is interesting, because user interface has never really been a strong suit of the company. Gates says 100 million people are using Vista, but there's no word on how many of them are happy about it.
Editor's note: As part of our extensive coverage of CES, CNBC.com's Brian Clark and Ted Kemp will be at the event and contributing to this special edition of Tech Check.