Microsoft aiming to offer connected experiences
Digital distribution and the Xbox 360
Moving swiftly from user interfaces, Gates then focused on connected experiences with the help of Microsoft's president of entertainment and devices division, Robbie Bach. Pushing the objective of easily making available information important to users available from multiple sources, a brief demonstration of the Windows Live suite showcased how users can plan and collaborate together.
In terms of content distribution, Microsoft continued its push into the digital-distribution market by announcing deals with ABC, Disney and MGM to bring further TV and movie content to its Xbox 360 device.
"Xbox LIVE Marketplace is the destination for high-definition movies, TV shows and music videos", Bach said. "And, with the new Disney-ABC and MGM partnerships, we are bringing even more compelling high-definition content to people through their Xbox 360."
Continuing on the Xbox 360 front, Bach was keen to point out sales of 17.7 million Xbox 360 consoles and expectations for 2008 to register the biggest year in gaming for the US market. Not forgetting to mention competitors, Bach claimed that Xbox 360 software sales in the US are far more than those ofr Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3 combined.
"With its continued momentum in games, accessories and digital entertainment via our leading online service Xbox LIVE and record-setting games and accessory attach rates, evidence is everywhere that Xbox 360 is thriving", Bach added.
Zune gets a mention
Microsoft's struggling, albeit very capable, Zune portable media player also got a mention. Insisting on a successful holiday season for Zune's new product range, Microsoft announced that the Zune devices would be available in Canada as of spring 2008 and that further markets would be added in future. No mention of the UK yet folks, sorry.
Showing just how the Zune offers an alternative from Apple's dominating iPod, Microsoft showcased the Zune Social network and elaborated on how users can discover, listen to and purchase new music all in one place - an experience Microsoft hopes will revitalise the industry and put the Zune on the map in a much bigger way.
IPTV isn't just a hobby
Speaking about its Mediaroom and IPTV technologies, Microsoft declared this market to not be a mere hobby and claimed that over one million set-top boxes are now running Mediaroom technology. Though mentioned only briefly, a new technology by the name of DVR Anywhere is promised to give users the opportunity to record media and retrieve it from all networked TV sets in the home.
In a big announcement on the IPTV front, Microsoft said that British Telecom in the UK has partnered with Microsoft and will soon be offering Xbox 360 consoles to customers - not just as games console but also for channelling BT Vision. Though no launch dates were revealed, this could be the spark that IPTV needs, as well as providing a further boost to market penetration for the Xbox 360 console.
Multiple ventures but nothing that stands out
Though Microsoft and Bill Gates focused on a variety of forthcoming ambitions and technology, no one item really stood out. Oddly enough, the highlight of the show may indeed have been a comical look at a video of Bill Gates' final day at Microsoft. Somehow, we just expected more from Bill's last keynote speech.
If, after reading this, you're still itching to see the keynote address in its entirety, head over to microsoft.com to view the video.