The lighter side of Bill Gates' keynote at CES

CNET News.com covers Bill Gates' CES keynote live, with details about demos, his search for gainly employment, and his Guitar Hero cred.

CNET News.com's Scott Ard is covering what could be Bill Gates' last keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. We also have a report with product announcements and other details.

Gates at CES
Members of the media wait patiently for Bill Gates to take the stage to deliver his keynote address. Corinne Schulze/CNET News.com

5:45 p.m.: We're inside a cavernous ballroom at the Venetian hotel with several hundred accredited journalists and bloggers, awaiting Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' scheduled appearance at 6:30 p.m. I would have simply described us all as "journalists," but the organizers of the show this year have issued press credentials labeled "Blogger" or "Press." In any case, this "Press" person will be imitating a blogger covering Gates' speech in real time.

6:30 p.m.: And we're off. But instead of Gates we're being treated to a promotional video from CES. Lots of happy, shiny people looking at happy, shiny gadgets.

Gary Shapiro, the head of the CEA, which produces CES, is addressing the several thousand attendees, playing up the list of keynote speeches and whatnot. He's got some kind of very large watch on his right wrist. Microsoft's SPOT?

6:40 p.m.: After a short video touting Microsoft products, Gates takes the stage--light blue sweater over a collared shirt, and dark pants. He reminisces about his history at CES.

"The first digital decade has been fantastically successful," he says. "Ten years ago I talked about the pieces that go into this."

"This is my last keynote," he tells the audience.

He begins by introducing a video about his time at Microsoft.

Gates at CES

The video covers Gates' "last full day at Microsoft." Video shows Gates driving a Ford Focus--with a briefcase on top--around the Microsoft campus. One clip shows him in the gym doing incline press. "Am I ready to take my shirt off?" Gates asks a trainer. The trainer's response: "Not yet."

In another snippet, Gates plays a riff on Guitar Hero while talking with rock band U2's Bono over the phone. Bono says, "We're full up in the band. All positions are filled. I can't just replace The Edge because you got a high score on Guitar Hero."

In search of yet another post-Microsoft job, Gates speaks with Hillary Clinton about "who would be your best running mate." He also makes calls to Al Gore and Barack Obama. Short answer: they aren't interested.

Finally, Gates turns out the lights in his office, picks up a cardboard box and heads to his Ford. Placing the box on top of the car, he starts it up and pulls away. His box slides off the roof and crashes to the ground.

At the very end, NBC anchor Brian Williams laments that he won't be able to report on Gates any longer, a man he describes as too cheap to spend more than $7 billion for a haircut.

6:55 p.m.: Gates is back to more sober topics, discussing the future of computing--"high-definition experiences everywhere," "rich devices" that are "service connected," and "the power of natural user interface."

Gates laments his final days at Microsoft. Ina Fried/CNET News.com

7 p.m.: Moving on to Vista, Gates says 100 million people are now using the operating system. I didn't catch the words "happily" or "willfully," but 100 million it is. Meanwhile, he says that 20 million people are using Windows Mobile. He introduces a Microsoft exec, Mika Krammer, to talk about and demonstrate Windows Live. Been there, so we'll rest for a bit.

7:10 p.m.: Gates is back and demonstrating what the company calls the Surface PC, essentially a glass table that serves as a touch-sensitive computer. In his demo, Gates is standing over the table, designing a snowboard by sliding various logos around and adding bindings.

"I think that's a good-looking snowboard, but before I decide to buy it I'd like to show it to some of my friends." So he uploads the image for sharing.

Gates also introduces a video about Microsoft's collaboration with NBC in broadcasting the 2008 Olympics. Sportscaster Bob Costas closes with another humorous dig at Gates' search for a new job after Microsoft: "Bill, one last thing, you have to stop calling me. There is simply no place for you on our Beijing telecast."

Slash jams on stage
Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash plays the part of Gates' Guitar Hero ringer. Corinne Schulze/CNET News.com

7:15 p.m.: Gates introduces Robbie Bach, head of the company's entertainment and devices division, to talk about new partnerships with Disney, MGM, and others. Details are in our news story here.

Bach appears to take a jab at Apple. In talking about his company's media products, such as DVR capabilities, he emphasizes that these are not "hobbies" for Microsoft. If you recall, earlier this year Steve Jobs described Apple TV as a "hobby" for the company.

7:32 p.m.: Gates is back with a device that can use face recognition to identify a person or place. It correctly identifies Bach, with a notation: "Owes me $20."

Gates notes that it's not a real shipping product, but something from the research labs. Bach looks at the brick-like device and quips, "you can tell that came from the labs, that's for sure."

Gates and Bach are talking about Gates' history at CES when Bach suddenly challenges Gates to a dual on Guitar Hero. Bach says he needs to bring in a ringer and introduces Kelly Leone (spelling unsure because they are not displaying the names of guests on-screen). She rips into Welcome to the Jungle, and Gates responds, "She's pretty good." Gates then introduces his own ringer: former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash.

Slash performs a bit of the same song, but with a real guitar. Killer. He then walks off stage to the left, while Gates exits to the right. The end of an era.

See video of Gates' keynote here.

About the author

CNET Editor in Chief Scott Ard has been a journalist for more than 20 years and an early tech adopter for even longer. Those two passions led him to editing one of the first tech sections for a daily newspaper in the mid 1990s, and to joining CNET part-time in 1996 and full-time a few years later.

 

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