Gates hails "digital decade"

Introducing Windows Media 9...

Introducing Windows Media 9...

By Stefanie Olsen and Joe Wilcox

Microsoft introduced its long-awaited digital media software, Windows Media 9, last night in an effort to establish dominance for its operating system in distributing high-quality digital content.

Chairman Bill Gates formally launched the software Wednesday evening at an extravagant party in Los Angeles.

In true Hollywood fashion, Gates was joined by Titanic director James Cameron, Beatles producer Sir George Martin, and musician LL Cool J in showing off the technology. Not to be outdone, Gates also starred in a video presentation where he played the roles of fictional magician Harry Potter and comedic secret agent Austin Powers.

"This is a real milestone for us," Gates said. "All of this fits into an overall vision of the next decade, which we see as the digital decade (where the) PC will play a central role."

But to get to that point, "we have to improve the quality and ease-of-use" of the technology, he said. That is already happening, due to faster computer processors, cheaper storage and "the magic of software," he added. During his speech, Gates described a future in which millions of homes will be connected wirelessly, while residents used various electronic devices to share music, videos or other content.

With the introduction of Windows Media 9, Microsoft is aggressively courting Hollywood, which is at the crossroads of the convergence between television and the Internet. The software debut also puts the company into fiercer competition with RealNetworks, the forerunner of digital media playback software, which introduced an improved version of its technology earlier this year.

"From Microsoft's perspective, digital entertainment and digital media are important catalysts for driving the next big cycle of PC upgrades," Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff said.

"But the challenge for Microsoft is to convince content creators their intellectual property won't be pirated" in the process, Rosoff added.

Stefanie Olsen and Joe Wilcox write for News.com

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