The Next Digital Decade

gatesLast night at a pre-kickoff for CES, Bill Gates gave his last official keynote as the big kahuna at Microsoft. A few of us at the lab were invited to an event by the Microsoft eHomes team to sip cocktails and watch the keynote on a large screen — a much more comfortable way to be inspired then fighting the CES crowds.

The keynote kicked off with a funny video montage about what would Bill be doing next, including the usual surprise guest stars (Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Bono, Jon Stewart to name a few) and a series of presentations by some key Microsoft players. For those who were expecting an inside peak into what’s coming next from the software giant, this may have be a bit of a disappointment. The evening was more of a celebration of what the last year brought and some minor hints at the direction the company is going in.

More then anything else, I was impressed by a few simple messages that the charity-minded Gates made sure to communicate about his future, Microsoft’s role in that future and where perhaps our world focus should be. He spoke about the future of software being used to advance and support healthcare and education. While this was not a new statement from anyone in the charity space these days, to hear Gates speak of it as a driving force for Microsoft’s solutions and in the context of the launch of CES was inspiring, especially intermixed with real-world business models and solutions. This was not a "do-gooder" boosting of his retirement plans but a statement of facts on the world stage.

Bill also defined three main areas of focus for the near future:

  1. Image Quality — HD, Screen Tech and the ability to render hi resolution images in all areas of life
  2. Service connected environments with organized memory (lordy, would I love that for myself!)
  3. Evolution in Interface – a focus on the visualization of navigation and the use of speech.

Personally, the other piece of news that most excited me as the lab continues to do original research in the video consumption space was the announcement of ABC and Disney joining Xbox Live for downloads and the addition of the MGM library as well. More solidification for Xbox’s role as a set top box player. HP and Samsung will also be building media center extender technologies into their monitors so you can pull media center content directly into your viewing experience without a set top box.

What does this all mean? The traditional broadcast model continues to expand with Xbox and Media Center poised to play a large role in content distribution and consumption. Look to your neighborhood college dorms to see the future playing out — and it will drive the next digital decade.