Week in review: Gates' farewell to CES troops

Bill Gates gives his "last keynote" at CES and tech is no front-runner in New Hampshire. Also: The decline of DRM.

Bill Gates, one of the most influential people in tech for the past three decades, delivered what he called his "last keynote" at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Gates may be stepping away from full-time work at Microsoft later this year, but he still had a few things he wanted to show off. In his traditional address before the beginning of the show, the Microsoft chairman demonstrated a slew of fashionable PCs, touted the role of computing interfaces like speech and touch, and announced a partnership with NBC to jointly run the site for the Olympics.

Gates also used the speech to note that his software company has now shipped 100 million copies of Windows Vista. He said that getting so many Vista PCs out will make the platform more attractive. "That's a very significant milestone for application development and specialized hardware work."

CNET News.com readers debated the impact Gates has had on the tech community, with many claiming that Gates' Microsoft copied, bought, and bullied competitors.

"Gates has been an excellent salesman, but a lousy forecaster," wrote one reader to the News.com TalkBack forum.

However, it's unclear whether Microsoft's dominance in the computer industry will carry over to new consumer-oriented markets, or whether rivals such as Google and Apple will ultimately gain the upper hand.

In an interview just ahead of his farewell speech, Gates spoke to CNET News.com about competitors, the future of DVD, and why all of those seamless connections between digital devices exist only in keynote speeches.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini also shared his vision of the future, predicting in his keynote that the ability to connect practically all electronic devices to the Internet will unleash a burst of innovation and business opportunities that will rival the impact of personal computers. Otellini presented a vision of an always-on, always-connected experience for consumers, whether they're sitting in their homes, driving their cars, or riding their bikes.

"We're now in the midst of the largest opportunity to redefine consumer electronics and entertainment since the introduction of the television," Otellini said.

During his keynote, Otellini demonstrated a system-on-a-chip for consumer devices. Code-named "Canmore," the product is intended for use in TVs, set-top boxes, and media players to allow, among other things, the integration of Internet applications.

Traditional tech players weren't the only ones in the CES spotlight. General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner took the stage to unveil the company's latest concept car--a Cadillac that could get 300 miles on a single tank and has nearly all the eco-friendly features you can think of. The Provoq--the first concept car to get its premiere at CES--runs on a hydrogen fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery. The car primarily runs on hydrogen, but uses the battery for peak power and storing electricity to extend the range.

One of the most passionate techies at CES was a cab driver named Daniel Habtewold, who was playing an eclectic mix of reggae and other music via his iPod, noting that it was Apple's beefiest model, the 160GB iPod Classic introduced last fall.

"I have 20,000 songs on my iPod," he said. Habtewold said he's had a regular iPod, a photo iPod, and an earlier video iPod as well.

Habtewold's tech lust isn't limited to iPods. He also has a $3,000 camera setup including a Canon D30 and L-series lens, a Windows Mobile phone, and a Casio watch that also acts as a television remote control.

Here's a quick rundown of other notable news from CES:

Laptops and combo drives
•  Shuttle introduced its $199 KPC Linux PC, which features an Intel Celeron processor, a 945GC chipset, 512MB of memory, and a choice of either a 60GB or 80GB hard drive.
•  The Dell XPS 630i laptop featured an unusual-size display, showing images in a true 16:9 screen ratio (like an HDTV), rather than the 16:10 screen ratio found in most laptop displays.
•  The Buffalo MediaStation Blu-ray HD DVD drive is an external USB combo drive that reads and writes Blu-ray discs and reads HD DVD discs.

TVs, thin, wide, wireless
•  Panasonic unveiled its 150-inch "Lifescreen" plasma, billed as "the world's largest plasma."
•  At just 2.9 inches deep, JVC's 42- and 46-inch flat panels on display were billed as "the world's thinnest LCD TVs with built-in tuners."
•  Sony's 11-inch OLED HDTV is now available stateside for a cool $2,500.
•  Westinghouse Digital showed off a wireless LCD flat-panel TV, but the model is currently targeted for use in the digital signage market.

Phones underwater, on the road, and on your wrist
•  Sanyo Electric displayed phones that are available only in Japan, including a waterproof digital TV phone, so you can "enjoy watching TV while taking a bath."
•  The GPS-enabled Asus P527 includes a built-in SiRFIII GPS chip and a preloaded application called Travelog that lets you record and share your travel pictures, routes, and more.
•  Dick Tracy, your watch is ringing: LG Electronics showed off a prototype model of a watch phone that it will have Bluetooth, as well as text messaging.

Tech goes to the primaries
As important as technology is in the Nevada desert, voters in New Hampshire don't seem to be getting worked up over it.

In the days before Tuesday's primary, News.com reporters asked residents of New Hampshire questions about technology laws and regulation. What they learned is that Granite State voters are not exactly preoccupied with political skirmishes over rewriting patent law, increasing H-1B visas, and, of course, the pressing concern of broadband regulation.

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