Notes from a Senior Editor: Google: Best... Keynote... Ever! (CES Day Two)
Jan 07, 2006, 22:00 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by James Turner)
How to Help Your Business Become an AI Early Adopter
By James Turner
I actually arose this morning feeling a bit more in touch with
the world and not quite so ready to consider amputation of my feet
as a viable pain management option. I headed over to the convention
(blowing off the morning keynote from Yahoo!, which I was prepared
to believe was not going to be anything earth shattering (and from
all reports, wasn't) I started with a booth tour over at Casio and
then at Philips, at which no items of particularly Linux-y content
were found. On a whim, I swung by Intel to find out what their
whole Viiv campaign was about. It turns out that it's basically a
badging program where manufacturers who produce systems that meet a
certain spec of Intel specifications (including their new Duo
processor) can claim to be Viiv systems. Intel claims that Viiv
will ensure that retail purchases will know that the system they
buy can handle heavy duty multimedia tasks like HDTV. Initially
(like, for the next two years) Viiv will only be available for
systems packages with Windows Media Center, but the Intel
spokesperson I talked to said he didn't believe there was an reason
that non-Windows systems couldn't apply for and be Viiv certified
in the longer term.
Getting the vibe about Viiv.
Interestingly, I also talked to one of their folks manning a
laptop display, and he told me that the laptop vendors were pretty
unanimous in insisting that Intel have Linux device drivers
available for all the new Duo chips and boards before they would
incorporate them into the next generation of notebooks. If really
true, it means that Linux or the desktop is starting to get some
real traction in the mind of the manufacturers.
Vendors are pushing Intel for Linux drivers.
I headed over to the press lunch, same crowd as yesterday but I
did see someone I had missed, graphics board manufacturer S3. I
talked to one of their reps (who gave the impression of being
fairly senior in the company), and he cast some interesting insight
into the whole Linux graphics driver issue. According to him, it's
not an issue of revealing cool high end features to the competition
that is keeping them from releasing the high-performance 3D drivers
into the kernel. It's that the drivers will reveal flaws in the
hardware that could be used against them by their competitors.
According to him, all graphics chipset have flaws in them, that
it's inevitable given the complexity of the silicon. The vendors
code work-arounds in the drivers. By open sourcing the driver, they
would reveal their flaws to the other guys, and they could use it
as negative marketing ammo. On the other hand, he was not
antagonistic to the idea of open sourcing his Linux drivers, he
just needs to have a better grasp of what the upside would be for
him to doing it.
Nobody's perfect, even when they're a high performance
The final stop was over at Paris (the hotel) for a brief with US
Robotics. A couple of cool products that will be coming out over
the next few months, including a network storage device that
includes NFS and CIFS support (and which is running over Linux) and
a media appliance which can stream HDTV content from a (currently
Windows only) server. They're supposed to be getting back to me
about whether the API for the data stream will be opened up so that
a Linux version could be created.
A network storage device and an HDTV media appliance, both
with Linux Inside (tm).
Now we move on to the real treat of the day, a keynote by Larry
Page of Google. The presentation started with a display of recently
executed Google searches and a map of where the searches were
occurring. The press enjoyed themselves noting some of the more
bizarre or humorous queries that had been run.
Note the search for Paris Hilton Sex Video.
After a short movie where Google Earth bounced all over the
planet, ending in the ballroom of the Hilton, Larry Page emerged
being borne on the back of Stanley, the Standford DARPA Grand
Challenge winning Volkswagen. This was apparently mostly a chance
for him to congratulate his alma mater for winning the challenge,
but it also was a spectacular entrance.
The conquering billionaire is carried in by one of his
It immediately became apparent that this was not going to be the
standard slick CES keynote. Larry was working off a printed set of
notes he was holding in his hand. No teleprompting here. He spoke
casually, with a sense of pride in Google but not in any way a
self-serving way. In fact, one of the early segments of his speech
had nothing to do with Google, it was a plea to the manufacturers
to put more thought into how they design products. In specific, he
asked why they couldn't standardize on a single power standard for
devices, so that one cable could recharge any device. He also
suggested that the same cable should be able to sync or connect the
device to any other device. Why, he asked, couldn't his car with a
Bluetooth system use his Bluetooth phone to call the car
manufacturer to download updated information? The general plea was
for standards, rather than chaos.
Larry has obviously seen the floor of my hotel
Also demoed early was version of Google Maps for in-dash
navigation systems and mobile devices. He also announced that with
the AOL deal in place, GChat would soon interoperate with AOL
Instant Messenger. As it turns out, that was the least of the
things announced today. Before moving on, he took a moment to talk
about the lack of Internet accessibility in the developing world,
especially Africa. He called on the industry to work on changing
this, and showed a mock-up of the Media Lab $100 laptop.
Not too many folks doing Google searches in central Africa,
This lead to the first blockbuster announcement, Google Pack.
Essentially, it's a lightweight installer you can download from
Google, which in turn will install and keep updated a suite of
powerful tools with a single click. Included in the pack are
Firefox, Ad-Aware, Picassa, Norton Antivirus and Adobe Reader, all
free of course.
Looks like a Pack of trouble for Microsoft, and a real
boost for Firefox.
Now came a real piece of fun. Larry announced that Google was
developing a new telepathic version of Google, and brought out a
helper to demonstrate. It rapidly became clear that the "helper"
was Robin Williams, who proceeded to riff off of whatever topic
Larry mentioned, to the tune of about 15 minutes of side-splitting
material. It was pretty obvious that this wasn't rehearsed, it was
just Larry saying a term like "firewall" and Robin going off in his
own unique way until he'd run out of steam. People literally had
tears in their eyes.
Goooooood morning Las Vegas, Robin Williams is your search
Before people had time to blink, Larry had moved on to the real
stunning announcement of the day. Google Video was moving from just
searching video content to actually being a video content provider.
With the new Google Video Store, people could download free and
premium content from a variety of source, including WGBH
(Nova, Masterpiece Theatre), several record
companies, every NBA game 24 hours after it was over, and most
significantly of all, CBS. Starting pretty much immediately, choice
CBS shows such as Survivor, CSI, NCIS, and
The Amazing Race would be available for a $2 fee, and
could be played on the PC using the new Google Media Player.
Although the player is currently Windows only, Page indicated that
the intent is to quickly roll out the player for other platforms.
The new chief executive of CBS came onstage to comment on how
excited he was to be partnered with Google, and the buzz in the
audience was noticable.
Could this be the first serious multiplatform video on
After the dust had settled from that announcement, which
included a demo of just how easy it would be to purchase content
from the Google Video Store (and mention that anyone would be able
to sell content in the store, for payments as low as 5 cents a
pop), Larry moved on to questions and answers. He brought Robin
back on to "moderate," which essentially meant that he heckled the
questioners, Larry's answers, and life in general. It was clear
that Robin actually knows quite a bit about the technology, as he
started to answer a few of the questions before stopping himself
and handing off to Larry. If anything, this was more hilarious than
the first segment had been. He seemed to be in rare form, but never
got so out of control that Larry couldn't provide the answers to
Who dares face the biting humor of Robin
Nothing of note this evening, I went out for diner with some
folks I met at the show. Not sure I'll be seeing much Linux-worthy
tommorow, but if I do, you'll hear it here. Expect a show wrap-up
tommorow night, then I'll be winging my way back home.