Yahoo's CES demo: Mission impossible

Stars Tom Cruise, Ellen DeGeneres help Internet search company through technical demo problems at Consumer Electronics Show. Photo: Tom Cruise to the rescue

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
3 min read
Yahoo Chief Executive Terry Semel's glitch-riddled keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show on Friday was saved by Tom Cruise and Ellen DeGeneres--and by making Microsoft Windows the butt of jokes.

While trying to demonstrate the new Yahoo Go TV, which allows people to access Yahoo content and services through a Windows XP-based PC connected to a TV, the Internet connection failed. Executives tried to ad lib until Semel called his surprise guest, Cruise, to the stage.

Cruise, twirling sun glasses in his hand, told the audience he was there to help his old friend Semel before showing a trailer of his new movie, "Mission Impossible III," which is due in U.S. theaters in May.

Afterward, Cruise, Semel, Marco Boerries, Yahoo's senior vice president of Connected Life, and Dan Rosensweig, the company's chief operating officer, milled about the stage awkwardly, patting each other on the back.

A man in the audience yelled, "Play it again," and Cruise said he wanted to see how fast Yahoo's system could replay the movie. "Press the button," he said, and Cruise could once again be seen in the action-adventure film dodging blasts and kissing women.

After Cruise left the stage, Semel said, "I guess if you're going to have a demo glitch, (there is no) better way to follow it up than with Tom Cruise."

Click here to Play

Video: Tom Cruise to the rescue
Action star helps Yahoo's Terry Semel recover from keynote glitch.

Earlier in the keynote, comedian DeGeneres delivered a humorous shtick about how much trouble she has using technology and making puns about how different the gadgets were at the porn convention down the street. She suggested that e-mail developers enhance spell check to include a sarcasm check and a "24-hour hold on angry e-mails."

Boerries and Rosensweig demonstrated Yahoo Go Mobile, which allows people to access Yahoo and other e-mail, as well as instant messaging, photos and additional content, on mobile devices. They also demoed Yahoo Go Desktop, which makes Yahoo services available as applications on personal computers.

When they tried to demo Yahoo Go TV with the music and movie content, the screen showed an error message. "And we know whose software this runs on," Rosensweig quipped.

Even Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini, who was brought on stage to discuss how Yahoo has optimized Yahoo Go TV for PCs running Intel's new Viiv technology, couldn't resist taking a shot at Microsoft.

Click here to Play

Video: What's next for Yahoo?
CEO Semel announces Yahoo Go for mobile phones and any networked TV.

Otellini showed off a "concept" handheld PC called "Slide," with a 5-inch screen. He said it would be released in a couple of years, following a slightly larger version that would be in production later this year. As he played with the device, he suggested that he should try to get e-mail over the Internet on it.

"Oops! We got a not-responding (message)," he said. "I think it's a Windows problem."

Earlier, Semel played a video of Donald Trump. "It's an amazing company you're running, and you are an amazing guy," Trump said in an oddly scripted performance.

In introducing the need for convergence of devices and information, Semel described driving his 13-year-old daughter--a "short and perky kind of kid"--to school one morning. She had two headsets, a Sidekick device, a cell phone and so many alerts going off that "I thought at one point, maybe, she was trafficking."