LAS VEGAS - Microsoft Corp. might not be the unbeatable giant it once seemed to be, but Chairman Bill Gates made the case Sunday night that its technologies are becoming even more flexible and powerful as they seep into automobiles, Internet-based TV networks and living rooms.
A few months away from leaving his daily duties at Microsoft to focus on his philanthropy, Gates used his traditional kickoff keynote at the International Consumer Electronics Show to highlight how Microsoft is extending the reach of its software beyond desktops and servers, and incorporating alternative inputs like voice and touch.
“The first digital decade has been a great success,” he said. “This is just the beginning. There’s nothing holding us back from going much faster and much further in the second digital decade.”
Traditional PC programs got less airtime than in previous keynotes. That contrast stood out considering not only the tepid response for Microsoft’s year-old Windows Vista operating system but also the way that Web-based applications are threatening Microsoft’s hold on desktop computing.
Instead Gates bounced from cars — Microsoft’s Sync technology for playing music and making phone calls should be in all Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles in the 2009 model year — to the living room. Gates and Robbie Bach, who heads Microsoft’s entertainment division, announced an expansion of the high-definition Hollywood movies and TV shows that can be downloaded through the Xbox video game console’s online service.
Those include shows from ABC television and other properties of Walt Disney Co. (which, by the way, counts über-Microsoft rival and Apple chief Steve Jobs as its
biggest individual shareholder).