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CES 2008 Keynote: Bill Gates' Last Hurrah
Microsoft’s chairman reminisces on the past, pokes fun at the present, and pushing streaming as part of the company’s future—including a partnership with NBC to deliver video of the 2008 Summer Olympics with Silverlight.
Mon., Jan. 6, by Tim Siglin

For the last 8 sequential years, Microsoft chairman William Gates has delivered the opening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The 2008 CES keynote was no different, although Gates, whom everyone refers to as Bill just as everyone refers to his industry colleague Steve Jobs as Steve, noted this was his last keynote as chairman of Microsoft, as he intends to retire in July 2008.

As this was Gates’ last keynote, he took the time to look back at the keynotes he has provided for CES, including his first in 1994. He talked about the Digital Decade, a phrase made popular when Gates wrote his book The Road Ahead. He talked about Windows 95 through Vista—noting that 100 million users are now on Vista—touted the digital entertainment systems that Microsoft has shipped as part of Windows XP and Vista, and talked about Zune as an alternative to Apple’s iPod.

After a video poking fun of Gates’ inability to get into retirement mode—one which included celebrities from around the world fielding Gates’ calls as he pitched them on joining into projects such as recording a rap video, acting in a movie, or joining U2 (the latter done via a call to Bono during a concert to say that Gates had scored a top score on Guitar Hero), Gates then launched into the present. He showed Silverlight and stated Microsoft’s plan was to "make Silverlight a standard." Although he gave no plans as to how this will be accomplished, one way that Microsoft is forcing users to Silverlight is that it is required for viewing any content about the show at www.microsoft.com/ces.

One of the partnerships that Gates mentioned was a partnership with NBC to use Silverlight and the VC1 encoding standard as the exclusive online video delivery tool for NBC’s Beijing 2008 Olympic games, which kick off on 8-8-08. The intent, said Gates, is to allow live and on-demand viewing of almost 3600 hours of content, with a sample interface being shown during the keynote that was somewhat akin to CNN’s quad-window Pipeline interface. NBC’s Bob Costas reiterated the partnership in a taped testimonial about Microsoft’s MSN platform and its ability to deliver content which was touted as a radical new programming method for Olympic coverage. An allusion was made to high definition (HD) content being available but it was unclear whether this was both live and on-demand streaming content or just on-demand downloadable videos.