Gates boxing clever with vision for Vista

An onscreen boxing match between Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer was just one of the attractions of the former’s keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, USA, this month.

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By  Peter Branton Published  January 15, 2006

An onscreen boxing match between Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer was just one of the attractions of the former’s keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, USA, this month. As well as giving his now-customary vision of the digital future, Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, used his speech to demonstrate some features of the company’s forthcoming Windows Vista operating system. While the firm has released some technical details about Vista in recent months, Gates focused on some of the more interesting features that will encourage consumers to buy the OS when it becomes available. But just when it is going to be available wasn’t made clear. While Microsoft has committed itself to launching Vista in the second half of this year, Gates said it will still be working on refining the user interface for another few months and said only that it will ship “by the end of the year”. Vista is the successor to Windows XP. Since it is now five years since XP itself was launched, Microsoft has a lot riding on the success of Vista. Gates and other Microsoft executives highlighted a number of key features in Vista, including a tool for shifting between different applications more quickly and easily, called Flip 3D, and new ways of seeing information on screen. One such-feature, the Windows Sidebar, allows users to see information from different applications onscreen in small windows, such as news and sports feeds. The Sidebar feature was originally in the first Vista preview, codenamed Longhorn, but had been dropped from recent versions of Vista’s features list. A large part of Gates’ keynote was devoted to showing how Microsoft’s various consumer gadgets are being designed to work more closely together. “Consumers are getting more and more connected and software is at the centre of that,” Gates explained. One such demonstration saw Gates joined on stage by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, to demonstrate a high-definition boxing game. Gates played the Muhammed Ali character with Ballmer taking the part of Joe Frazier. The two traded punchlines, rather than physical punches. “30 years I’ve been training for this opportunity,” Ballmer said as they battled. “You’ve got the weight on me, I’ll give you that,” Gates retorted. Somewhat more seriously, Gates used CES to plug two more Microsoft products: the tablet PC, which he said would become more affordable this year; and the Media Center OS, which Gates claimed has now over 6.5 million users.

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