The 2006 Winter Consumer Electronics Show got underway last night with a keynote address by Bill Gates and if you were hoping for some substantial discussion of MSN Search or insight AdCenter. You will not find it here. While search was noted, very little time was spent talking about it in more than general terms.
Gates begins his keynote by saying that he and his wife were thrilled to be named Persons of the Year from Time magazine and “share” it with Bono.
He says that this is the Decade of Digital Lifestyles and Digital Workstyles.
This is the year that [Windows] Vista, Office 12 and many other products will come out, and the realization of [Windows] Media Center as a volume mainstream product will really be clear to everyone in the marketplace.
Gates goes on to give a demo that includes location-based info, fingerprint authentication, and conference calls.
So, it’s a very simple thing to have all these devices working together, and I have that Digital Workstyle, my calendar, the traffic, my contacts, my rich communications done in a very different way.
Software needs to, “make things both simpler and more effective.”
If we make them simple, we make them inexpensive and we drive them through a single interface, everything you learn, the concepts for one activity, whether it’s gaming or office productivity get applied across these different activities.
He talks about a “single interface” that can make all types of content accessible.
Note: I’ll add that I agree 100% with Gates on the single interface when it comes to search. This is the federated search idea that I’ve been blogging about since I joined the SEW Blog team and before.
Gates adds that software needs to work across many devices.
So it’s not just software for the PC or software for the phone or software for the videogame, it’s software for the user.
So this cross-device approach is a very, very important approach. In fact, that’s complemented by the fact that there will be what we call Live services where a lot of your files, your information will actually be stored out in the Internet, and even if you pick somebody else’s device up, once you authenticate, all that information becomes available to you. So moving between different PCs can be a very, very easy thing.
Gates concludes and then introduces Aaron Woodman, the group product manager, or Windows Vista. Remember, you can see the new interface and more if you view the on-demand video.
+ “Fresher” UI
+ Easier, faster to switch between apps including the new “Flip 3D.”
Flip 3D moves all of my applications into a 3-D space, allowing me to scroll through them with my arrow keys or quickly with my mouse.
Woodman also talks about the Windows Sidebar and Windows Sideshow.
The Sidebar is a space over on the right-hand side of the screen that houses small applications or gadgets that give very specific functionality or information at a glance. There are four in my Sidebar. There’s actually a picture window showing some of the pictures that my friends have placed up on MSN Spaces, I have an RSS feed; I even have an egg timer.
“…essentially it’s a small LCD screen built right into the side of the laptop. And essentially it gives me some small applications or gadgets, again providing some specific functionality. My favorite is actually the calendar application, meaning that I can look and see where I need to be, when I need to be there, without having even to have me power the laptop on.”
Woodman says that search is important to users and Vista delivers.
I can now type the application I’m looking for without having to search through lots of folders and immediately find the information that’s important. I can go to the Windows Vista library and search for content that I care about. And it’s going to search through all of those documents, no matter where they’re stored, what they’re called, and bring the relevant information to me, providing me that sense of clarity that I look for.
Sounds like desktop search to me.
Finally, say hello to tabbed browsing “with a twist.”
“But that twist I talked about is Quick Tabs. This gives me the opportunity to see all those tabs, the state that they’re in, and make quick, fast decisions, really taking the clutter out of the concern in deciding, oh, I don’t want that tab, not really that one either, that’s the one I was looking for; a great way to give tools that consumers are looking for, give them the information that they expect from the next generation of Windows PCs.
Finally, Woodman speaks on improved search for imagery.
We’ve given you a couple of new tools to find the images. We give you dates so you can quickly find things by date, by tags, by keywords. I can search by keyword. It’s a great way to put consumers back in control and easily find the memories that are important to them.
The presentation continues with the introduction of a new MTV Networks/Microsoft venture called URGE.
Van Toffler, the president of MTV Networks, says:
…with URGE we’re bringing to market a unique approach to digital music, one focused on the emotional connection to music. URGE will offer a customized relationship with music, a sense of musical discovery, along with access to millions of songs from major labs and indies, an opportunity to listen to over a hundred radio stations, a chance to learn about the roots of songs and lyrics, plus interaction with hundreds of artists and access to their playlists of must-haves.You can also take URGE and make it your own and personalize your own soundtrack and make it for any mood or event.
Wake the kids and phone the neighbors, Justin Timberlake appears onstage during the demo!!!
The presentation goes on to discuss Microsoft Media Center PC.
+ DIRECTTV content and BSkyB (UK) content will soon be available and be portable.
+ MS is working on a recommendation service that will help users find shows.
The presentation ends with Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates boxing using Windows XBox and then “after the fight,” Gates concludes with a few final remarks.
What’s Old is New Again
Two quick thoughts.
First, tools that help users customize their music choices by theme, genre, etc. is not new to Microsoft. Back in 2001 they offered a service that allowed users to help find similar songs. They called it “sounds-like” search technology. Here’s a page from The Wayback Machine to give you an idea of what the interface looked like. Today, other services like Pandora use technology and people to help create a personalized music experience.
Second, the Sidebar concept also sounds somewhat familiar. Remember “MSN My Stuff”? This post from the MicrosoftGadgets.com offers a great overview. That doesn’t mean the Sidebar s not a good idea. Things change quickly technology improves and users get more sophisticated. Perhaps these concepts are now ready to take hold.