Bill Gates at CES 2008

Bill Gates last night gave his final keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Gates will be stepping down from Microsoft as a full time employee, and work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation starting this July. I watched his keynote address and wasn’t all that impressed with either the actual speech or with the products Microsoft is looking at releasing.

Gates’ keynote focused on the idea of the second digital decade, a connected decade, with the first being a software decade. His idea is that in the coming years, no longer will where data is located be an issue instead all of you data will be with you everywhere. The possibly most interesting aspect of this to me was the idea that I could authenticate a phone as belonging to me and it would connect to the internet and have all my contacts. That would be a very cool feature. However overall the vision wasn’t all that impressive. This has been an idea that has been thrown around before by the vast majority of the tech industry. It wasn’t all that visionary especially coming from a man who has pretty much been at the forefront first digital decade.

Microsoft then discussed some both new and already announced products. First up was a focus on Windows Live and how if all of your family and friends use Windows Live you are able to coordinate activities between everybody. Nothing new there and I would say not that it matters, as long as one friend doesn’t use the service you don’t gain the full benefit of it. Also I don’t want to have to be tied to one particular service. Next the Microsoft Surface was re-demonstrated and not much more to say on that. A social network for the Zune was unveiled, Zune Social. Okay, so the first part of it of being able to create badges that display recently played songs and favorite artists that you can display on MySpace or Facebook or your blog is nice. However then Microsoft evidentially felt that they needed a social network built around it. So you now have another social network to keep track of, which there are already services that will do a much better job than Microsoft ever could, is just one example. One thing that they toted was that inside of the social network while discovering music you can purchase the music from the Zune Store. The transition though when you went to the Zune Store was goofy and it took control of the whole screen, also the interface was completely different. It didn’t make a ton of sense and will probably go nowhere. Ford sync was then shown off, voice commands for your phone and MP3 player. Ehh, it’s cool, but seriously it’s already been out in the public for a while something new please.

Finally we get to the far off gadget from Microsoft. It was a device that as you walked you could point at objects and people and display information about whatever. It would pull up all the digital memories that you have that are associated with that object, you could purchase movie tickets, get directions, and it could even show an ad from say a restaurant on why you should eat there tonight. Umm, this is dumb, nuff said. Why would I need to pull up all my digital memories associated with a person or business. I probably have those memories in say my head. Also I don’t want an ad playing when I’m walking down the street, aren’t there enough ads in the world that my memories need to have an ad. Imagine pointing it where you and spouse got engaged and seeing photos of you two together and an ad playing in the background. Just doesn’t work. Also how hard is it to walk up to a movie theater and purchase the ticket. If you are close enough for the device to tell what building you are pointing at, it can’t be that long of a walk. Overall it seems to be a device looking for a problem.

Overall, the keynote was not highly ranked in my opinion. The spoof video of Bill Gates’ last day at Microsoft was awesome and is recommended, though don’t suffer through the whole keynote.

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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