Gates takes wraps off Windows Vista
By Daisuke Wakabayashi
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) Chairman Bill Gates took the wraps off its next-generation operating system known as Windows Vista on Wednesday, displaying features aimed at positioning the software giant as the entertainment hub for a future of digitally connected homes.
Among the features of the much anticipated upgrade to Microsoft's flagship operating system is one that will allow users to plug their digital cable directly into their PC to watch and record high-definition cable content.
Gates, Microsoft's co-founder and chief software architect, delivered his keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in front of a packed audience eager to sneak a peek at Vista.
As broadband and high-definition content becomes ever more ubiquitous, Gates said the unifying factor will be software.
"The software is where the magic is. If you're going to have all this power be simple enough, appealing enough and cool enough, it's going to be because the software is right," Gates said in an interview with Reuters in advance of his address at the largest U.S. electronics show of the year.
Vista, targeted for shipment in the second half of 2006, will include the next version of Windows Media Center that is fully compatible with high definition programing, and Internet Explorer that promises improved security protection.
The five-year gap between the expected launch of Vista and Microsoft's current operating system, Windows XP, is the longest-ever gap between major launches of its core Windows product, the company's cash cow that accounts for more than a quarter of its $40 billion in annual revenue.
New features of Vista highlighted by Gates included Windows Media Center's plug-and-play technology which can accept digital cable cards that allow high-definition programing without a set-top box.
Gates touted this as one of the features that will create a true multimedia experience.
"Getting the video sources into the PC has been a limiting factor," said Gates in the interview. "We're making progress making the video content easily accessible on the PC."
Microsoft said it will also work together with DIRECTV to enable the transfer of digital content among Windows PCs, DIRECTV devices and the Xbox 360 to allow customers to watch movies and programs they get on their TV and play them on a number of different devices.
Better graphics for video games, a new user interface, easier search across the PC's hard drive and improved parental controls are among the other key features of Vista highlighted by Gates.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft also unveiled MTV Network's Urge Music Service, which will be built into Windows Media Center 11 and offers users instant access to 2 million songs and videos in MTV's library.