LAS VEGAS (CNN/Money) -
If you didn't know any better, you would think that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was a rock star.
Gates delivered the opening keynote of Comdex Sunday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, a theater usually reserved for concerts. The crowd roared at the mere mention of his name and music blared on the loudspeakers -- streamed on Windows Media Player of course -- before he took the stage.
And in true rock star fashion...the event started about twenty minutes late.
|Bill Gates played rock star at the Comdex opening.
Once Gates did start his speech however, it became clear that he intended to be a crowd pleaser. Gates showed a video called "Behind the Technology," a parody of VH1's "Behind the Music" series, which gleefully mocked rivals Apple Computer (AAPL: Research, Estimates) and Oracle (ORCL: Research, Estimates), as well as Gates himself.
At one point in the video, Gates talked about how he knew the Internet would be a major phenomenon only after it was blatantly obvious that it already was one. The caption underneath his picture said "Bill Gates: Internet Pioneer...NOT."
Magnets that tell time
But for the most part, the keynote focused on a wave of new products using Microsoft technology such as the Tablet PC. Another new device, called a Smart Display, was also demonstrated. The Smart Display is a flat panel monitor that has a wireless connection to a computer, allowing the user to walk around with just the monitor and still access the Internet and perform other functions using a stylus.
The first such device, made by ViewSonic, will be available in January and Gates said that Philips will be shipping its first Smart Display in the first quarter of 2003 as well.
Gates also demonstrated a variety of so-called "smart devices" that Microsoft is working on, objects such as refrigerator magnets that can tell the time and display sports scores and an alarm clock that gives traffic and weather information on the display. "During the course of this digital decade, people will think about computing in a different way," Gates said.
|Microsoft's clock with weather and traffic information
Gates unveiled several business-focused products as well. One, called Microsoft OneNote, will be a part of the company's next version of its Office suite of software, due out next summer. OneNote is a souped up version of Notepad that enables users to have typed and handwritten text in the same file as well as audio and video files.
Another new service, part of Microsoft's .Net initiative, is a feature that gives people the option in Microsoft Word to send documents digitally to a branch of printing company Kinko's and have the documents printed there.
Mum about the downturn
Still, while the keynote had its share of cool new technology, there was little said about the woes the industry currently faces. Gates simply noted, "The attitude toward capital spending and the overall economic climate is very challenging."
He did not address the recent approval of the company's antitrust settlement with the federal government and nine states either.
His closing remarks did offer some sense of hope, albeit vague. "The information technology business is the most interesting business to be a part of," Gates said. "Innovation is going to create opportunities for all of us in the years ahead."
Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) shares fell 30 cents Friday to close at $56.69.