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Jan 7 2008   12:29PM GMT

Bill Gates says farewell at CES: His potential, our passion. Our laughs, anyway.

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Last night, Bill Gates gave his swan song keynote at CES 2008. Before his speech, which as always enjoyed blanket coverage from the tech press, the outgoing chairman of Microsoft played a hilarious video.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/HEWMC4usElM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

(Thanks go to the Future Shop for the video.)

Gates was able to pull in celebrities from all walks of life to participate: Speilberg, Clooney, Bono, Hillary, Al Gore, Obama, Jay-Z and a particularly hilarious bit with Matthew McConaughey. Even you didn’t make it to CES, this one’s worth adding to your lunchtime video snacking. It turns out that Bill balances funny with brilliant, though not so much on a fitness ball.

Aside from the humor, Gates orated at length about the next “digital decade,” where we can expect vast improvements in hardware and software to drive media to places it’s never been, though he painted in broad strokes rather than introducing many specific products or services. He outlined three major themes : high definition displays with 3D, multiple devices always connected to Web-enabled services ( so-called “cloud computing,” a trend we and others are documenting) and the power of vastly improved natural interfaces. To that end, Gates managed to get through a successful demonstration of snowboard design software using the Surface I/O platform without a single crash, an improvement on past experiences. Gadget geeks, epitomized by the Engadget and Gizmodo crowd, took note of the Windows Mobile 7 (Photon) image that snuck into the presentation, promptly linking to leaked interface designs for the OS that might show up on an upcoming Palm/Treo handset.
It looks like the iPhone’s multitouch interface spurred Redmond to improve on the feature-laden but complex interface of Windows Mobile 6.

The nascent Silverlight platform also scored a big win, as Gates announced that MSN would be NBC’s exclusive online provider for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing. That means that if you want to watch the Olympics online, you’ll need to download the player and install it on your browser. Well, legally, anyway. I’d be shocked if NBC wasn’t chasing .torrent files around the Net or YouTube mashups. I had to install Silverlight to watch the slive last night, actually, with a few bumps along the way. Version 1.0 of anything always worries me. You can watch the entire Gates CES keynote here.

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