Gates Describes Home Full of Smart Gadgets
LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is looking past the PC industry that made him mega-rich to a world of "smart" computing technology that powers everyday gadgets from refrigerator magnets to wireless LCDs to alarm clocks.
In a keynote opening the
"We will continue to live in a deeply digital world," Gates said, adding that wireless technology and a behind-the-scenes network infrastructure has allowed the industry to already creep beyond the desktop PC. His keynote included several product announcements for the home and office.
Gates showed off a new line of portable wireless "Smart Display"
flat-panel screens, formerly
ViewSonic on Monday will begin taking preorders for its $999 V110 wireless 10-inch display and its $1299 V150 15-inch display called AirPad, scheduled to ship in January. Gates said Philips and other manufacturers will offer competing "Smart Displays" within the first quarter of 2003.
Gates also introduced OneNote, a Tablet PC-centric application, scheduled to ship from Microsoft in mid-2003. OneNote mimics note-taking with a paper and pen, but improves on it. The notepad-like program lets you create digital notes by typing or writing, and then save, search, and share those notes electronically.
Looking into the future, Gates demonstrated a new category of Microsoft software for what he called "smart personal object technology," or SPOT. The idea is to make "smarter everyday objects" and take them "beyond their core functions," Gates said.
As an example, he showed an alarm clock that uses a wireless Internet connection to automatically update the time by an online atomic clock. It can also deliver personalized information such as weather or commuter advice based on a user's personal settings. On the SPOT technology product roadmap are such devices as smart wristwatches and keychains.
Gates even showed prototypes of digital magnets for a kitchen refrigerator. The ordinary-looking magnets had tiny LCDs showing real-time data feeds, such as time, weather, sport scores, road conditions, and other useful information.
"Today, the home environment is one where the PC is starting to play a bigger role," Gates said. He cited industry research that 70 percent of U.S. homes have a PC, and one-third of U.S. homes have a PC in the living room.
Windows is spreading onto other devices in the living room. Gates
Gates also trumpeted Microsoft's efforts toward building and deploying Web services based on its .Net platform and the industry standard format Extensible Markup Language.
As one example of a .Net service, he demonstrated a Web service that will be available in the middle of 2003 from Kinko called "File-Print-Kinko's." The service adds an option to an application's print menu, which a user can click to send a file online to Kinko's for printing at one of its facilities.
As usual, the Microsoft chief found time for some light-hearted slapstick. He played a video segment that spoofed the VH1's "Behind The Music", featuring cameos from former President Bill Clinton, Warren Buffet, and rapper Sean "P Diddy" Combs.
The video entitled "Behind the Technology" satirized the history of the PC from early models like the Altair through DOS and Windows. Gates lampooned its failed Microsoft BOB software with a clip of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive officer, hawking shrink-wrapped boxes of Bob on a home shopping show.
Tim Russert, host of "Meet the Press", interviewed a dot-com era sock puppet, blaming the former Pets.com mascot for triggering an economic bust.