Software Will Drive Media


Broadcasters may just be starting to grapple with transmitting their signals in digits. But to Bill Gates, that's part of an inevitable transition.

“All media and entertainment will be software-driven,” the Microsoft founder and chairman said in the final keynote address he expects to ever deliver at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In the past decade, software has overhauled how music is created, delivered and played back; has made film photography almost obsolete; and now underlies feature-rich mobile and home phone services.

Such changes in communications and entertainment will reach “much faster and much further in the second digital decade,” Gates said last Sunday night (Jan. 20).

The “magic of software,” he said, will bring “high-definition experiences everywhere,” from TV screens to desktop monitors; make common the idea that all data and computer services can be available at any time from any place; and allow users to increasingly employ their fingers, voices and hands to interact with digital devices.

Gates is leaving Microsoft as a full-time employee in July to work at his charitable foundation.

In a mock video about his last full day at Microsoft, he tried to find his way with more time on his hands — getting gently rejected by Bono in his attempt to become a member of the rock band U2; by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in attempts to become their running mates in the presidential race; and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart in his attempt to become a co-host of The Daily Show.

As part of Gates' final keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, the software giant announced that ABC, Disney Channel and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will deliver TV shows and movies to the Xbox 360 console as part of Microsoft's Xbox Live programming service online (see “Cutting the Box Open,” page 20).

Microsoft will deliver more than 500 hours of ABC and Disney content to Xbox Live users, in both standard- and high-definition Among the shows: ABC's Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives and Disney Channel's Hannah Montana and High School Musical, two of its biggest hits.

Past and current ABC shows will be available on-demand, with new episodes arriving the day after they are televised.