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With electronics show set to open, Gates heralds new digital decade

07 January, 2008

WowWee Group executive Art Janis displays the company's Tribot at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The product can move by itself and avoid
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LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AFP)-The world's largest consumer electronics trade show will officially open here Monday, with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates heralding the onset of a new "digital decade".

The Consumer Electronics Show features for the first time a "Sustainable TechZone" dedicated to "pioneering technologies that benefit the environment and sustainability of the global economy."

Innovations in the TechZone will include voltaic solar-power generating backpacks and messenger bags made from recycled plastic soda bottles.

Control4 and other firms specializing in automating homes will display computerized systems that reduce the amount of energy wasted in cooling, heating or lighting residences or by televisions and other entertainment electronics.

In his last keynote speech late Sunday, Gates predicted the coming 10 years will deliver great technological changes.

"The first digital decade has been a great success," Gates told an overflow audience in a ballroom at the Venetian hotel and casino.

"This is just the beginning. There is nothing holding us back from going much faster and further in the second digital decade."

There are more than a billion personal computers in use in the world and more than 40 percent of people on the planet have mobile telephones, according to Gates.

The new digital decade will be increasingly "user-centric" and the trend is for media and entertainment to be software driven, Gates said.

"The second digital decade will be more focused on connecting people," he continued. "Those applications will run on the Internet, in the cloud as we say, and use the best of software services."

The comment came as an admission that the market is moving away from Microsoft's longtime core money-maker, packaged software that people install on their own machines.

Gates said high-definition video experiences "will be everywhere," from televisions to wall projections and even built into desks or tables.

People will roam in increasingly realist three-dimensional virtual worlds, tending to business, shopping and other aspects of daily life, he contends.

Electronics will be increasingly linked to the degree that people will eventually take for granted getting their data whenever and where ever they want, according to Gates.

"You will take getting your data for granted," Gates said. "No longer will users have to bridge between devices and remember what is where."

While the first digital decade was marked by the keyboard and the computer mouse, the new decade will be marked by "natural user interfaces" such as touch screens and gesture controls, according to Gates.

Consumer electronics trends, opportunities and creations will be highlighted at the show and scrutinized in more than a score of "TechZones," and industry experts will discuss hot topics in conference sessions continuing until the show ends January 10.

"This is where the gadgets are, and the people that like gadgets," said Nate Nelson of Zagg Inc., which is among the exhibitors at the event.

Electronics makers vying for the CES spotlight will tout new products and resort to the time-proven tactic of bringing in actors, musicians, magicians, comedians or sports stars.

The event offers a vault of high-tech marvels from the last in flat-panel television sets and mobile telephones to computer controlled homes and cars.

Gates has spoken 11 times at annual CES events. He steps down from his full time job as chief technology officer at Microsoft in July and will refocus his efforts to the philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"This is the first time since I was 17 that I won't have my full time Microsoft job," Gates said. "I don't know what that last day will be like; it could be strange."

End.

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