Software Is Shaping Consumer Electronics as Devices Go Digital, Says Microsoft’s Gates
LAS VEGAS, Jan. 10, 1998 — Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates spoke about the future of consumer electronics technologies in a keynote address today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. His address portrayed an emerging world of digital devices that are beginning to provide consumers with new and exciting forms of entertainment and information in their homes, offices, and even in their cars.
Gates’ remarks focused on how software has become the key ingredient in creating a new generation of products that consumers are familiar with and how these products now offer previously unavailable levels of connectivity, functionality and ease of use.
“The PC is not the only tool that consumers have,” Gates said. “There are many products that consumers use in their everyday lives, from TVs to pagers, from cell phones to new devices such as our just-announced PC Companion products, including the Auto PC and Palm PC.” What is new about these products, Gates added, is that they are becoming increasingly intelligent and connected to each other, while retaining their specialized nature.
Gates pointed to the emergence of industrywide standards and common software platforms as engines that are fueling the growth and acceptance of new digital devices. “Whether it’s been VHS in video, CD in audio, or networking standards such as TCP/IP, once a product category defined a standard, sales shot up,” Gates said. “We are seeing the first evidence of this in next-generation devices, with key functions such as wireless communications.”
During his speech, Gates outlined what he termed the three “defining” elements of this new generation of devices: new, low-power microprocessors designed for specialized devices; connectivity, within a class of devices, to other devices, and across the Internet and computer networks; and enhanced functionality built on top of devices that consumers already know how to use.
Gates talked about the range of consumer markets that are targeted for the Microsoft® Windows® CE operating system, Microsoft’s operating system designed for the device space. He said the initial group of products powered by Windows CE fall into the PC Companion class of mobile productivity products (Handheld PC, Auto PC and Palm PC). But Gates emphasized that there are other strong potential markets for the Windows CE platform. “We will also target the embedded-systems market for specific vertical business applications such as point-of-sale terminals, and we are clearly very excited about the prospects for Windows CE as an entertainment platform,” he said.
To that end, Gates demonstrated the full range of devices that either currently use Windows CE or Windows as their operating system software or will in the near future. These devices include WebTV® set-top boxes, broadcasting services on a PC running a beta version of Windows 98, and digital TV displays. He also reviewed the range of computer manufacturers (OEMs) and software developers (ISVs) already shipping products powered by Windows CE, and noted specifically that OEMs have now shipped 500,000 Handheld PCs. “That’s a faster sales ramp than cell phones, pagers or many other devices had in their first year,” Gates said.
In reviewing the progress of Microsoft in creating new product categories and software platforms, Gates briefly touched on his now-famous “Information at Your Fingertips” speech from 1990, in which many of the products and services envisioned in that speech are now becoming commercially available. “We’ve been working on this a long time,” he said. “It really is gratifying to see it come to fruition.”
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.
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