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Notes From a Senior Editor: A Look at the Dark Side (CES Day Zero)

Jan 05, 2006, 19:00 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by James Turner)

By James Turner
Senior Editor

Well, not a heck of a lot to report on the Linux front for day one of the Consumer Electronics Show (really day zero, because the show floor doesn't open up until tomorrow morning.) The evening highlight, as it were, was the annual "Look How Great Microsoft Is" keynote by Bill Gates. I'll apologize in advance for the quality of the photos, they ran out of assigned press seating and a lot of us were seated up in nosebleed territory.

Bill Gates Demanding One Million Dollars...
Bill Gates Demanding One Million Dollars...

The first part of the talk was a Disney-style World of Tommorrow fantasy of the next five years, where computers are your friends and information seamlessly follows you everywhere and you can turn your cell phone into a desktop computer by placing it down on a table. About all it seemed to demonstrate was that Microsoft can produce a snazzy demo with no real technology behind it, although some of the concepts were intriguing.

So the future is going to be a rigged demo
So the future is going to be a rigged demo.

After that, things settled down into a long Vista demo, in which it was demonstrated that you'll be able to use tabbed browsing in IE (just like Firefox), that you'll be able to set ESRB ratings levels under parental controls so only certain games will be permitted for your kids, that you'll be able to sort, crop, remove redeye and otherwise organize your photos (just like iPhoto, Easyshare, or 99 other photo packages)... you get the idea. Vista seems to be essentially "let's take all the good ideas everyone else has come up with and bundle them into the OS". Nothing wrong with that, but notably missing from the discussion was any mention of improved security or virus protection.

Microsoft's motives may not be transparent, but at least Vista's Windows are
Microsoft's motives may not be transparent, but at least Vista's Windows are.

To their credit, we then got a sneak peak at the next generation of Flight Simulator, which definitely kicked butt graphics-wise. It was noticably sluggish however, which begs the question what the minimum systems requirements will be to get it to run well.

Ok, so Flight Simulator looks awesome
Ok, so Flight Simulator looks awesome.

Next followed an announcement that MTV has partnered with Microsoft to create a music service called URGE, which from all appearances is a iTune/Rhapsody/Napster clone. To bolster their credibility, they brought out Justin Timberlake to say how snazy it is. I don't keep up with pop music trends, but my impression was that Timberlake was pretty much over his 15 minutes of fame. I guess Bono's deal with Apple would keep him from endorsing URGE.

Justin Timberlake endorses Urge, World yawns
Justin Timberlake endorses Urge, World yawns.

At this point, I'm going to summarize. A lot of what was talked about was how A) You could share your information about what TV shows you watch and what music you listen to with your friends (and Microsoft), and you'd get all sorts of neat benefits in return, and B) You'll be able to buy all sorts of neat content from Microsoft and it's partners, and it would all be nice and legal. A lot was made of how you'll be able to use a cable card with Windows Media Center to record high def premium and HDTV cable content, unspoken was the "if our DRM decides you should be allowed to" piece of the pie.

After the Gates talk, I headed over to the Tech Zone party, which was short on products to view but had a nice buzz. The one product they did have on display was an LCD display that features enhanced dynamic range. Unfortunately, what the display was best at demoing was why you should always ship your critical equipment very, very carefully.

The Brightside LCD Display was everything it was cracked up to be
The Brightside LCD Display was everything it was cracked up to be.

I finished the evening over at a party for Fatal1ty, the professional video gamer. Again, not much to see, but some nice folks, good food, and a killer view of the city from the Foundation Room over at the Mandalay Bay.

Vegas by night
Vegas by night.

Tommorow, the show floor opens. I should have lots of juicy Linux news to report, and some more photos of the nightlife at CES.