Gates Outlines 'User-Centric' Digital World, His Life After Microsoft

LAS VEGAS -- In one of his last addresses to the business world, Microsoft's Bill Gates talked about a wide range of topics--everything from a new 'user-centric' digital world to what a self-proclaimed, wealthy technology geek job search may look like.

Poking fun at himself in a video presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show on Sunday night, Gates wondered what to do with his life after Microsoft. He leaves his chief executive post in July.

So he inquired through Bono, Matthew McConaughey, Hillary Clinton, Jay-Z, Jon Stewart, and Steven Spielberg/George Clooney about positions as a guitarist, bodybuilder, politician, rap-star, TV anchor, and actor. There were no takers.

On more serious topics, Gates--in his last keynote address at CES, his 11th at the big business event--talked a lot about new 'user-centric' devices where users can build their own applications, all in a high-definition-quality world.

In the future, he said, computer users won't use traditional computer and mobile phones, but "projections on walls, and other surfaces" to manipulate information. "People can walk through a downtown in a 3D environment or walk through a store," said Gates.

Future computing work will be done on rented devices. "No longer will users have to bridge between devices. You can authenticate who you are. You can borrow a device." He said devices will know users' content and the locations they need to go to.

Computer keyboards and mouses will be a thing of the past. "You can use gestures so that you can get things done," he said, "say, in front of a TV set." Later on in his presentation, he used his finger to custom design a snowboard on a special video tablet. "I didn't need to learn anything," he noted.

Gates said Microsoft's Windows platform will be the launch pad for many of these new applications. In other company news, Gates said the new Windows Vista operating system, which was released last year, is now at 100 million users.

Later on, Robbie Bach--president of the entertainment and devices division at Microsoft--noted that its Xbox360 game console is now a fast-growing $3.5 billion business through November. "That's one billion dollars more that Nintendo's did on the Wii and two million more than Sony's PS3 [PlayStation 3]."

Bach said 17.7 million Xbox360 consoles have been shipped to date, and Microsoft's XboxLive, the companion online feature to the console, has hit 10 million users.

He also announced that Microsoft has made a deal with Disney-ABC to have shows such as "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical," as well as MGM library movies, to be run on its Xbox360 gaming device. Bach said this brings its entertainment list for Xbox to 35 networks/studios.

"XboxLive, when we are done integrating this content, will offer more than twice as many hours as much on-demand high definition content as any cable or satellite provider," he said. "It's quite clear online distribution is going to be a powerful force in the future of video."

Bach also announced that Microsoft has made deals with Samsung and HP that enable users to take content from Windows MediaCenter PCs and run it on televisions through 'extender' technology. HP will be the first to have this through its new 'MediaSmart' TVs.

Microsoft also said it is working on new interactive applications in deals with Showtime, TNT, and CNN. "This will give you the ability, say, in a NASCAR race, to produce your view of what the race is like," said Bach.

For the likes of CNN, he says, users can customize the video content of the upcoming presidential election.

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