By Peter Branton
While Google may have grabbed a lot of the glory in the past year, the Consumer Electronics Show proved just who is still the undisputed heavyweight champ for the IT industry: Microsoft pulled out all the stops at this year’s show and reminded everybody of all the stuff it has going for it this year.
|~|justinbody.jpg|~|Justin Timberlake was one of the many celebrities who joined Microsoft's CES event.|~|While Google may have grabbed a lot of the glory in the past year, the Consumer Electronics Show proved just who is still the undisputed heavyweight champ for the IT industry: Microsoft pulled out all the stops at this year’s show and reminded everybody of all the stuff it has going for it this year.
Mind you, the software giant may need to take a few lessons on cool from its brasher rival. Memo to Bill: sharing top billing on Time magazine with Bono is one thing, getting Justin Timberlake on stage to up your cool rating is quite another.
In fairness, Gates did have plenty of other stuff to show off, not just the future Mr Diaz.
As well as showing his game-playing skill with buddy Steve Ballmer in a frankly rather bizarre “boxing match” Gates was able to give consumers a taster of what using Vista, the next-generation of its Windows operating system, will be like.
We say a taster, as he also acknowledged that with a good few months to go before the OS actually launches, everything on display is still subject to revision.
While Microsoft has committed itself to launching Vista in the second half of this year, most industry watchers believe it is more likely to be December than July before it ships.
Gates said only that it would be by the end of the year, which would suggest the former month.
The worry is if Microsoft finds itself near the end of the year and struggling to get everything fixed on Vista. What then? It has already cut back substantially on the range of features it promised with Longhorn (as the trial version of Vista was codenamed before it settled on Vista as the commercai name for release).
Further cutbacks could see its functionality diminished considerably.
The problem then for Microsoft would be in convincing people that it is actually going to be worth buying it all.
So what did the audience at CES see? As the name suggests, CES is focused on the consumer experience, rather than business usage, so Microsoft highlighted some of the funkier functions of Vista, most notably how information is presented.
The Windows Sidebar and Sideshow functions will allow users to access a range of information more easily, such as newsfeeds, and Vista will make it easier to “flip” between applications, making it simpler to see what is happening on your desktop.
But Vista will also give Microsoft a lot more leverage in the gaming world, as it will deliver much better graphics capabilities — hence the boxing match.
All of these benefits are focused on the consumer but the business benefits of being able to see information more clearly and of accessing different information sources more easily are also clear.
Now we just want to know when we’ll get it.