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CES 2008: Microsoft Keynote

Next he was joined by Molly O'Donnell to talk about the Zune 2, which Bach says has been a marked success since it launched in the US. He announced that the device would be launched in Canada in the coming year, but there's still no word on the possibility of it reaching Europe. How, might one ask, can Microsoft be considered a serious contender in this market place if it restricts the Zune to North America?

Nevertheless, together they demonstrated the social networking aspect of Zune, known as Zune Social. Though it's clear that Microsoft is really following in the footsteps of the likes of Facebook, MySpace and last.fm in this service, the implementation certainly looks intriguing. Using the Zune's built-in WiFi and Zune Social, the player will report on what you've been listening to, allowing friends to see what you like and you see what they like - discovering new music along the way. From a distance, at least, it looked like a well implemented system and the fact that this works in conjunction with the player adds a welcome dimension, though not one we're going to be enjoying anytime soon.

Arguably the most interesting demo of the night was, however, a somewhat canned presentation on Microsoft's Say & See technology - an extension of Tellme. Still deep in development, it's a visual and voice activated dynamic search tool which is intended to one day be a part of Windows Mobile. In the demo, Gates used a camera to search through a massive backdrop of Las Vegas Boulevard. As he roamed around it would identify locations such as the The Venetian Hotel and Casino, telling him of appointments (i.e. the keynote) which he had at that location. From here he showed how it was possible to switch to a 3D representation of the area, as well as searching for events going on at the identified locations.

Given the complexity of the demo and the flawlessness of the performance it was hard to escape the impression that this was a very well co-ordinated presentation, but as a proof of concept it was still very impressive and provided an interesting insight into what the distant future might bring.

Finally, having wowed the crowd with this presentation, Microsoft couldn't help but sign off with a grandstanding show piece, with Slash of Guns 'n' Roses fame walking on stage playing 'Welcome to the Jungle' under the pretext of settling a bet between Gates and Bach. It was a finish typical of the event, providing an entertaining but shallow finish to what was as much a celebration of Bill Gates as it was a look into the future of Microsoft. Lacking was any real information on the future of Vista and Windows Mobile, with the Say & See demo proving the only truly unique demonstration on show.


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