Bill Gates welcomes ‘second digital decade’

7 Jan 2008

In his final address to the crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates looked back on the last decade of technological innovation before introducing the company’s new technologies and making his exit.

In his 11th and final keynote at the CES, Gates said the last ten years had been the first digital decade which centred on the computer, the keyboard and the mouse.

The second digital decade, he said, would be focused on the people and creating human-computer interfaces that would be more natural, intuitive and ‘user-centric’.

Gates talked about intelligent handheld devices – a topic he covered several years ago at the CES but one which is now closer to reality with developments in satnav, mobile web browsing and advanced chip technology.

In this vein, Gates predicted that 20m mobile phones running Windows Mobile technology would be sold by the end of 2008, with 11m having been sold to date. This number far outstrips that of Apple, which hopes to have 10m iPhones sold by the year’s end.

The most futuristic Microsoft got was when Gates demonstrated the forthcoming Surface computer, a tabletop multi-interface, multi-user touchscreen resembling a giant iPod Touch or iPhone.

Last May, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had talked about this technology, listing one of its uses in the service industry as a tabletop in a restaurant from which customers could order food and drinks.

Gates demonstrated how someone could utilise the interface to easily customise and order a snowboard online, then upload the picture for friends to see.

News on the digital download front was also released. Gates said that joining the ranks of companies offering movies and TV shows for download from the Xbox Live Marketplace were MGM Studios, as well as ABC Television and the Disney Channel.

By Marie Boran