Live from Las Vegas: After the Gates keynote Sunday night, I headed over to the press reception and ran into Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer, who shook my hand, squinted as he looked down at my name badge (causing my heart to skip a beat, frankly) and then boomed, "HOW YA DOIN'?" He's such a nice, approachable guy. ClearType guru Bill Hill was also on hand, kilt and all, along with Bert Keely, the Microsoft product manager who had demoed the TabletPC onstage with Gates at the keynote. He let me play around with the device for a while and noted that it was running on a Transmeta chip. Actual shipping devices--due in 2002 he said--could run on Intel, AMD, or whatever the PC makers wanted. That was their call. But the TabletPC is sweet, no doubt about it.

Other faces in the crowd: Dan Bricklin, Walter Mosberg, and the son of Ralph Lauren, who also participated in what was arguably the liveliest part of the keynote. Then Gates showed up and the crowds swarmed around him, presumably to hear him pontificate further on the subjects that were already broached in the keynote. He wasn't really saying anything of interest, so I headed out. After a brief stop at GeekFest, where I was required to wear Elvis sunglasses, I headed back to the room and crashed.

I ran into an interesting problem Monday, due to the three-hour time change from Boston to Las Vegas and what I take to be a bug in Microsoft Outlook. I had scheduled a number of meetings during my trip, including four for Monday afternoon. After breakfast, I jotted down the times and locations of my meetings--which I had saved in Outlook's Calendar module--and headed down to the main Convention Center, which is attached to the hotel at which I'm staying (ah, convenience). First stop was the Microsoft press room, which is in the same place it's always been, a rare second floor room overlooking the main show floor. Microsoft didn't have a map, however, so I headed out onto the floor to look around. According to my notes, my first meeting was at 11:00 a.m. with Lernought & Hauspie, makers of the voice dictation and command software.

I found the booth a lot more quickly than I thought I would, but then I realized that I had forgotten to write down the name of the person I'd be meeting with at L&H. So I sat down at a table in their booth (what the heck) and fired up the laptop. When I opened Outlook to the meeting, I noticed something odd: Despite the fact that it was marked down for 11:00, the text of the meeting schedule, which I had copied in full from an earlier email noted that the time I was to meet them was 2:00 p.m., not 11:00 a.m. Likewise, each of my further meetings was three hours off as well.

The culprit, of course, was the Time Zone settings in Windows, which I had changed on the flight to Vegas. But why the heck would Outlook have adjusted scheduled items according to the Time Zone? I'm going to ask someone on the Office team about that one. In the meantime, I had three hours to kill, and a crowded show floor to deal with. So I headed into the throng for a quick look at Microsoft's area.

Microsoft's Comdex presence has always been massive, but this year it's bigger than ever, spreading out into the booths that used to be next to it. It's a small city unto itself, with a PocketPC "hands-on lab" that drew numerous onlookers and a large number of theaters showing off Microsoft's present and upcoming products. Windows Me, the .NET Enterprise Servers, PocketPC, and Office were all being heavily promoted, and I noticed that Microsoft had begun referring to the Windows Me UI as a "new user experience," an interesting choice of words. I ran into Microsoft CEO and president Steve Ballmer for a second time in front of the hands-on lab and snapped a photo of the congenial guy. The fact that a guy like Ballmer can walk around a show as crowded as Comdex never ceases to amaze. I spent the rest of the time wandering around the south hall, and I'll have some show highlights in my next report. After that, it was time for a series of back-to-back meetings, most of them with Microsoft. It seems that the company had a few announcements of note that day