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==== In the News ====

CES 2006: Gates Pushes Consumer Wares
      by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

During the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2006 opening keynote address on Wednesday, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates touted a number of his company's new consumer-oriented products and services, such as the Windows Vista OS and the Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Centers. Gates has provided a keynote address at CES for the past 10 years. As usual, he mixed a bit of retrospection with a look to the future.

"Technology has revolutionized how we listen to music, watch TV, play games, communicate, and manage and share personal information," Gates noted. "In the years ahead, further exciting innovations will unify the software, hardware, and services in people's lives, offering them richer, more engaging, and deeply connected experiences."

Gates touched on the successful launch of Xbox 360, which is still in short supply, and noted that Microsoft Media Center PCs experienced their best year ever in 2005--more than 6.5 million Media Center PCs have been sold worldwide--and Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is now the default choice for many consumer-oriented PC models. Gates said that Media Center PCs will include CableCARD support for HDTV signals beginning this year.

Looking ahead, Gates showed off various consumer-friendly features in Windows Vista, which is due late this year. These features include the Media Center Software that will be found in various Vista product editions, a new photo management feature called Windows Photo Gallery, and a new version of Windows Media Player. Gates also demonstrated Microsoft Flight Simulator X, an upcoming revision to Microsoft's popular flight simulation software; new Xbox 360 titles such as "Fight Night Round 3"; and the upcoming Windows Mobile-based Palm Treo, a smart phone from Palm that will ship for Verizon customers beginning today.

Gates also provided a preview of second-generation Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Center (PMC) devices, which will become available sometime in the first half of 2006. These new PMCs offer support for subscription video content, such as that offered by Vongo, as well as better resolution and video quality, widescreen displays, and other features. Additionally, he demonstrated upcoming Windows Live features, including the VoIP functionality in Windows Live Messenger.


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