Bill Gates performed an amazing trick at Comdex Sunday night: he managed not to say a word about the ongoing antitrust case against Microsoft, even though it dominated the subtext of his 90 minute keynote speech, at the Las Vegas Hilton.
After an initially cool reception, from a less than capacity crowd, Gates managed to create some enthusiasm with a combination of perfectly produced video clips, a dose of self-deprecating humour and some smooth product demos.
?My last year has been real exciting?, he said, leading into a video showing, among other things, footage of a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing into Microsoft, of US chief justice Janet Reno, of himself receiving a pie in the face during a visit to Brussels, and of a product demo crashing during another of his keynote speeches, at PC Expo earlier this year.
?Fortunately, everything you saw either had or will have a happy ending?, said Gates. He added that the person who performed the crashed demo ?is still working for Microsoft?.
The theme of Gates? talk was ostensibly about the need to make PCs simpler to use. But all along the way, and with the aid of an all-star cast, Gates attempted to show the same image of Microsoft that his legal team is attempting to portray in court: a company that innovates and that creates opportunities for other companies to prosper.
Silicon Graphics was brought in to show off Microsoft as the Enabler. SGI senior vice president Tom Furlong wowed the crowd with a demonstration of the 3D rendering and realtime video editing capabilities of his company?s first workstations to be based on Windows NT and a standard PC architecture. The systems will ship in January and will be priced starting at below $4,000, Furlong said.
Microsoft the Innovator was showcased by researcher Bill Hill, who demonstrated a new Microsoft-developed font rendering technology called ClearType that greatly enhances the readability of onscreen text. According to Microsoft, ClearType triples the resolution of black and white screen fonts when rendered on an existing colour LCD screen.
ClearType is a software-only technology, said Bill Hill. Bill Gates added that it would be added to a future version of Windows, so all Windows applications would benefit from more readable fonts.
But while anxious to make Microsoft appear as an innovator rather than as a marketing behemoth, Bill Gates still managed to cram about five product pitches into his keynote.
He first showcased Microsoft Office 2000, which is about to go into widespread public beta, demonstrating the product?s ability to save documents directly to a Web server and to recover from the deletion of key application files. The new component of the suite, PhotoDraw 2000, was also demonstrated.
Gates further showed off SQL Server 7, which is being launched at Comdex this week, displaying the product?s natural language query interface.
And Motorbike racer Rusty Crank was brought in to demonstrate two new Microsoft games that are heavy on 3D effects: MotorCross Madness and Combat Flight Simulator.
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