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Gates Previews Blurring Border Between CE, PC

Microsoft founder Bill Gates kicked off 2002 International CES by giving an in- depth overview of how Windows software, mated to CE audio and video devices, will create an environment where the lines between computer and entertainment products disappear.

During his speech on the eve of the show, Gates introduced two new Microsoft software developments, Freestyle and Mira, which he expects will make this vision a reality. Freestyle allows a PC to be fully operated with a TV style remote. Mira is designed for use in Smart computer displays. It will let these displays be disconnected from the host PC and used as a portable computer by maintaining contact via a wireless network. Intel and Viewsonic have already signed on to support Mira, while Samsung, NEC and Hewlett-Packard are on board with Freestyle, Gates said.

The newest version of Windows Media was introduced that can compress audio files to where 22 hours of music will fit on a 650MB CD or 160 hours worth on a DVD. In addition to being used in PCs and portable digital audio devices, the new version will be embedded in full size audio components by a range of companies including Panasonic, Kenwood, Aiwa and Toshiba.

This year Gates said the company will introduce Smartphone 2002, software allowing one device to operate as a cellphone and PDA.

Gates also gave an overview how Windows XP has performed, claiming that between retail sales and versions sold on PCs 17 million copies of the software have been bought in the past three months. This is 200 percent greater than Me sales were at the same point. Xbox sales have just hit the 1.5 million mark with an average of three games being sold with each console, Gates said. When the game goes on sale in Europe and Japan in the next two months the number of units sold will hit about 4.5 million by June and 150 Xbox game titles are expected to be on the market by the end of the year.