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Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Gates shares vision of the future

THE KEY The future lies not in great hardware alone, said the Microsoft co-founder, but in the connectivity of the plethora of electronic devices that surround us

AFP , LAS VEGAS

Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates shows his vision of the interactive bedroom of the future during his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates spoke on Sunday of a future in which home room decor changes with a person's mood and kitchens guide amateur cooks through recipes.

He envisioned front doors that contact mobile telephones to show absent home-owners who is knocking and let them provide electronic signatures if packages or flowers are being delivered.

Bus stop shelters will recognize travellers by their mobile devices and provide schedules as well as recommendations of restaurants or other nearby places suited to their tastes.

These features already exist at the House of the Future at Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington, Gates told a ballroom packed with more than 4,000 people on the eve of world's largest consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

The key, Gates said, was merging hardware advances such as those on display at the 40th annual Consumer Electronics Show with connectivity.

"They are delivering on the promise of the digital decade," Gates said of device makers.

"The key missing is the connections. Delivering the connected experience requires more than just great hardware. People want to do things across multiple devices," he said.

Devices commanded by speech and computers with built-in cameras will be among the trend setting developments in the coming five years, Gates said.

Gates used his platform as a technology industry superstar to spotlight the social design of Microsoft products, especially the consumer version of Microsoft's Vista operating system due on the market on Jan. 30.

"Vista was the biggest investment ever put into a piece of software," Gates said.

Gates introduced Microsoft employees who demonstrated Vista features including virtually traveling through three-dimensional maps of real cities, moving picture desktop background and live feeds of sporting events.

Toshiba, Sony and Hewlett-Packard were listed among partners that have tailored computers with special features for Vista for its launch at the end of the month.

Gates also unveiled a Windows Home Server that acts as a central storage space for data from all the computers, Xbox 360 videogame consoles and MP3 players under one roof.

Content from music and pictures to video and work files could be accessed remotely.

US computer maker Dell was making an enhanced version of the device branded Smart Home Server and other partners such as Advanced Micro Devices were developing versions, Gates said.

"We think it is a category that could explode in importance," Gates said.

By summer, Vista will link to Microsoft's Xbox 360 and let people using PCs play videogames online with those using the gaming consoles, devices division president Robbie Bach said.

Bach also revealed that the Xbox 360 system would deliver TV and movies via the Internet by the end of the year.

"Our goal is to make entertainment more personal, more interactive and more social," Bach said at the news conference.

The Internet protocol TV capability would enable users to watch TV or films while playing videogames or chatting on the Internet via Xbox consoles.

Gates was joined by Ford president for the Americas Mark Fields to describe an exclusive deal in which the US auto giant would use Microsoft software to install cars with voice-activated telephone and music operations.

The "Sync" platform technology will be available in 12 Ford vehicles this year.

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