Gates used his keynote address here -- his tenth at the trade show -- to highlight his vision of how consumers' work and home lives will be made more efficient during the final years of the so-called "digital decade." Not surprisingly, much of the infrastructure behind this vision stems from the upcoming version of Microsoft Windows, Vista.
"This is the year that [Windows] Vista, Office 12 and many other products will come out, and the realization of [Windows] Media Center as a volume mainstream product will really be clear to everyone in the marketplace," Gates said. "Consumers are getting more and more connected. They're getting richer experiences, and software is really at the center of that."
Gates and other Microsoft officials dangled glimpses of the latest Vista build, as well as devices and services that are to be tied into Vista. But the software mogul spent much of his time on the stage describing scenarios that, while not specifically promised in Vista, would at least be coming in the near future thanks to the operating system's features.
His vision is a digital lifestyle and "work style" in which users' desktop PC interfaces would be available via PCs, notebooks, mobile phones and futuristic mobile phone kiosks. You might find a kiosk say, in an airport lounge, ready to provide full desktop capabilities when paired with your cell phone.
Gates demonstrated selecting a video news story on his home PC display to receive updates on the story on his cell phone and office PC. He also showed off location-, device- and situation-aware presence for IM and communications; drag-and-drop capabilities for adding new participants to video- and screen-sharing-enabled conference calls; and fingerprint authentication for all features.
He also spoke at length about the ability to send video and other content to other screens and devices throughout the house -- including the Windows Media Center PC, notebooks, phones, and televisions connected to the Xbox 360.
"Software will come in and make things both simpler and more effective," he said, such as helping to find other music by that artist or similar artists, not having to think about disks and putting them in the case. You might use a digital jukebox that lets you call up the movies that you own and see those exactly when you want to. You could organize not just photos but all the memories of your kids growing up, search those, send them off to relatives, and have them appear on various screens around the house.
"These are scenarios that people can understand, if we make them simple, we make them inexpensive and we drive them through a single interface," he added.