Gates draws Windows-shaped future at CES

Microsoft’s Bill Gates has delivered his tenth annual keynote at the 2006 CES tech show in Las Vegas. In it he outlined a future where Redmond’s growing ties with the entertainment industry lead to a world where consumer content, devices and networks are roads leading to one platform: Windows.

Gates’ whirlwind tour stopped off to preview the URGE music store: a tie-up with MTV to provide access to more than 2m songs and exclusive content through a service integrated into the upcoming Windows Media Player 11.

On the video side, users of Windows Mobile-based devices will soon have access to the Vongo video download service and Starz TV channel, while BSkyB will be providing video content over broadband to the UK, following its buy of LLU specialist Easynet, to Windows Media Center PCs. Video will be delivered using the Windows Media Video 9 format, and Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) will enable movies to be viewed for up to 30 days after download.

Gates also outlined a deal with DIRECTV to allow content on its satellite service to be viewed across Windows and Microsoft DRM-compliant devices.

He said that future versions of Media Center would even include a card slot, cutting out the need for a set-top box altogether and allowing users to connect directly to cable services through a PC and manage the content from there.

Now with the introduction of a hard drive add-on for the Xbox 360 console, Gates noted that gamers can also use the console to access HD content from Media Center PCs. And new services for Windows Live and Windows Vista will allow users to manage their entertainment remotely, but only on Media Center PCs or set-top boxes using the Microsoft TV IPTV platform.

Alongside this strategy, Gates also highlighted the strides Microsoft is making in catching up with the burgeoning VoIP market. Using the forthcoming Windows Live Messenger, the next version of MSN Messenger, Gates demonstrated two handsets that work both across the Messenger service and the standard fixed line network.

In Vista Gates showed off the system’s powerful search capabilities and for the Xbox 360 promised more than 50 new high-definition games to drive the console towards its goal of being the fastest-selling video game console in history. He claimed current forecasts of up to 5.5m unit sales by June would give it this accolade.

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