The yearly calendar of Bill Gates is undoubtedly chock full of special days, but last night in Las Vegas he once again relished what has to be the only date marked "get the party started" as he delivered the 2007 CES opening keynote address. The Venetian's faux-Renaissance main ballroom was packed to the gills with adoring tech fans ready to get crazy, but to everyone's chagrin, most only managed levels of mild to moderate excitement.
With Gates being such a singular figure in the world, it's somewhat shocking that he's capable of delivering such a yawner of a keynote. The theme was the "connected experience" that will soon allow us to consume our "content" and communicate freely in every conceivable location (living room, kitchen, car, etc) at every conceivable moment—all with Windows Vista at the core. Vista does look great, and eye-candy like a full-screen video desktop background and a 3-D Google-Maps-style application garnered murmurs of delight from the crowd, but in the end, Gates delivered nothing more than a standard trade-show preview of an upcoming product.
The address was not entirely without interestingness, with the official announcement of Windows Home Server edition—a version of Windows designed to run on a specialized server box (HP announced the first) and capable of linking your home's computers (and Xbox consoles) to perform automatic backups, store files and allow remote access to your stuff from anywhere via the Internet. Also notable was the announcement of IPTV's debut on the Xbox later this year, positioning the Xbox as the be-all end-all living room device.
By the time Gates demoed a fantastical future home (sorry Mr. Gates, but ours is better) with "these digital screens" making up the walls and countertops, a good portion of the massive crowd was already heading to the exits to beat the rush, possibly knocking over some Venetian stilt-walking jugglers or lute bands in period dress. Now that's excitement! —John Mahoney