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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 09:36 GMT
Gates promises Windows everywhere
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website in Las Vegas

Bill Gates, AP

Microsoft boss Bill Gates has made an ambitious pitch to put Windows software at the heart of everything people do.

Speaking as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas opens, Mr Gates talked about Microsoft's plan to remake itself to match digital lifestyles.

"Consumers are getting more connected and software is at the centre of that," he told an avid tech audience.

Some 130,000 people are expected to attend CES to catch up with the latest gadgets and technology trends.

Future vision

Mr Gates is a veteran keynote speaker at the annual techfest, which is one of the largest consumer electronics show in the world.

The main theme emerging at the conference is of an online, connected world where consumers can easily control their media, deciding how and when they listen to music, read the news or watch TV.

While this idea has been talked about in the past, many believe technology has matured to a stage where it is becoming reality.

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer on stage at CES, AP
Bill Gates took on Steve Ballmer in the virtual boxing ring
Microsoft's co-founder and chief software architect sought to wow his captive audience with a scenario of the potential of such a digital future.

This ranged from a flat touchscreen panel in the kitchen showing customised TV reports, traffic updates and the location of family members to a wraparound desktop at work that combined video conferencing, instant messaging and more.

"These are scenarios that people understand if we make them simpler," he said. "These things need to work across all the different devices."

In Mr Gates' future, Windows will be the backbone that binds different devices and systems.

It marks a shift of focus for Microsoft, which has in the past focused on PCs.

Music store

But the home computer was not ignored. During the presentation, there were more details about the upgrade to the Windows operating system, called Vista, due to go sale in the latter half of the year.

Bill Gates at CES, Getty Images
Mr Gates said Windows would be behind many different gadgets
But the focus was largely on entertainment features such as watching video or listening to music.

There were also details of the deal with MTV to provide an online music store, called Urge, which will feature two million tracks.

The service will be integrated into the new Windows Media player, much like Apple's online store is part of iTunes.

"2006 is going to be a big year for the digital lifestyle," concluded Mr Gates.

Attendees at CES will have the opportunity to hear different visions of the future in speeches at the conference by the heads of Sony, Intel, Yahoo and Google.

The show starts officially on Thursday and runs until Sunday.

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