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Gates touts MS at Comdex

Bill Gates kicks off the megashow with a rambling keynote that serves to plug Microsoft's products rather than define an industry vision.

LAS VEGAS--Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Bill Gates kicked off this year's Comdex here tonight with a rambling keynote that served more to tout his own products than define an industry vision.

Gates touched on his company's major themes this year, from undercutting Java and counterattacking the Justice Department to promoting the Windows CE operating system, all under the tag line of "I love my PC."

Using the Comdex spotlight, Gates painted broad, feel-good messages about the personal computer, stopping to stiffly deliver jokes--even hashing out a "top ten" list of reasons he loves his PC--and to narrate some slick video clips. He

go to "Gates: Top ten reasons why I love my PC"
avoided details about products or his company's current legal entanglements, although he poked fun at Ralph Nader and the Justice Department. On his list, for example, was that he could sit at his desk, contact his lawyers around the world, assemble a 48-page legal brief, and deliver it to the DOJ.

"There's a certain irony in using those Internet


Gates defends himself against the feds
technologies that are built into Windows to build the case to defend those Internet technologies," he said. "And it worked perfectly." It's unclear whether he was referring to the technologies or the legal strategy.

As many major trade show speeches have become, Gates's keynote was less a vision of the future than an extended commercial for his company's products, prompting one Microsoft marketing manager who asked not to be identified to dub the speech "content-free."

Windows NT 5.0, which Gates called "a major milestone for us," was the subject of a long demonstration. A Microsoft employee showed off NT 5.0's ability to store and synchronize data and system resources on remote servers as well as local drives. This technology, dubbed "Intellimirror," will be released in the second beta of NT 5.0, due early next year.

To provide some relief from the almost 90-minute speech, Gates brought guest speakers on stage to demonstrate how they use Microsoft products. A man introduced as a Marine major showed how he draws up battle plans on a handheld PC; a Jeep tour operator drove on stage and hyped scheduling software; and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came up to show off his new Web site and plug his new history book, Black Profiles in Courage.

Gates gives PC tips to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The speech did show a sense of humor, sometimes pointed back at the company itself. During a video sketch in which a cable guy wreaks havoc on a family's living room, the family's TV showed a series of commercials, including a parody of a popular Volkswagen and a shot of Steve Ballmer--Gates's right-hand man in charge of sales and marketing--desperately trying to sell copies of the infamous Bob software on a Home Shopping Network-like show.

Perhaps the best line of the night came as the Marine trumpeted the need for wireless communications in the field: "You don't go into attack with co-ax cable hanging out your rear end."