Monday, January 7, 2008

Citizen Gates

On Sunday, Bill Gates delivered his final keynote at Consumer Electronics Show. He used to keynote COMDEX until it went belly up (in 2004) after 25 years. However, about a decade ago Gates made a second pilgrimage to Vegas to keynote CES, as Microsoft sought to cross over into more consumer technologies.

Most of Gates’ talk was on familiar themes of Microsoft technology everywhere. The major announcements by Chairman Bill and his staff were around content: NBC parnering with MSN to deliver on-demand Beijing Olympics coverage, as well as Disney and MGM movies available on Xbox Live. (Microsoft separately announced BT would deliver TV services via Xbox 360). They also explained a little more about the voice recognition partnership with Ford that’s been heavily advertised recently.

Even though Bill Gates is becoming non-executive chairman on July 1, it sounds like the company still has the same goal of total world domination — just without either of the founders. Steve Ballmer certainly seems capable of continuing this quixotic quest for another decade or so.

However, the most interesting thing about the keynote was the seven-minute video which purported to be an NBC news story on Bill’s last day at Microsoft. Narrated by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, it featured Gates being turned down in his post-retirement job search by U2’s Bono, Steven Spielberg, Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama and some guy named Jon Stewart. It was moderately funny in an inside-the-industry way, but could have done without the laugh track (apparently the live CES reaction).

The farewell video is not available separately, but starts about 10 minutes into the overall Gates keynote which is posted to Microsoft’s website. Of course, it’s only available in one format (WMV), so us Mac types have to install the Flip4Mac QuickTime plugin to get it to work.

After July 1, Bill is going to spend full-time burnishing his image as a philanthropist. It certainly seems feasible — Andrew Carnegie did a world of good (not so sure about Rockefeller). Or is he just going to build a big house — like the nice one we visited last week built by Citizen Kane Hearst?

Still, it’s interesting that his two rivals and contemporaries, Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, are not retiring. Is it because it will take less time to burnish their respective images? Is it because they want to amass another $50 billion (each) to catch up with Chairman Bill? Or is it because they’re having more fun?

1 comment:

Antonio said...

How ironic. Can't watch the Gates keynote with the plug in MS endorses. It's offered in some weird, unsupported codec, hiding underneath a wmv. At least stick to the standard. Flip4Mac is us Mac'ers saving if only content providers will stick with a standard.