Gates to CES: Less is more - for MS, too

Contends the great consumer-based digital convergence creates more opportunities for more companies -- and MS means to take advantage

When you think of convergence, you think of consolidation, right? Less is less. But Bill Gates sees it the other way around: When it comes to the combination of computers, TVs and telephones, less is really more.

During his keynote address to the giant Consumer Electronics Show here Wednesday evening, Microsoft CEO Gates claimed that the ever accelerating and much vaunted digital convergence will actually create more devices, more opportunities -- and more companies.

Yet, at the same time Gates was striking the same broad -- and hopeful -- themes, he also seemed hard-bent on pushing his mighty Microsoft's software into every facet of home life.

"For the people at this show, it is an era of great opportunity," said Gates. "Convergence is not having fewer companies that own everything; companies will be come more specialised."

Aside from the next version of the company's well-known PC operating system, Gates showed a packed house how a Windows CE handheld, an auto PC, a cell phone and a dedicated Web access device could all access similar data. Most of the technology made an appearance two months ago at Comdex/Fall, held in this very same venue.

"A key element here is how the software is going to connect them all together," he said.

Gates' Windows-centric view was in no greater evidence than his vision for the digital home.

Just as they set preferences for their PC desktops, people living in the Microsoft home of the future will be able to set preferences for each room of their homes. When a person enters that room, the lights may dim, the shades could lower and the TV would turn on.

"Even the washing machine will be able to show a notification that the laundry is done on any of the devices connected to it," he said. "I actually live is a home like that, and it really works."

In what is fast becoming an earmark, Microsoft's chief used this speech here to indulge in self-deprecating humour. He showed a slickly produced video, starring him and chief lieutenant Steve Balmer and a host of other celebrities.

Among the skits on the big screen were "Austin Gates," who "put the sin in syntax," as well as a fake episode of MTV's Real Life featuring NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, PC-manufacturing magnate Michael Dell and wunderkind Jeff Bezos.

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