Bill Gates started off the Microsoft CES keynote with his thoughts on the rapid advancement that the technology market has undergone in recent years, and quickly tied it all into the release of Windows Vista and the importance of the new operating system. Other than Vista’s features, the keynote included information about their new Windows Home Server, Live Anywhere, Xbox IPTV, and a big deal with Ford Motors.
A neat feature, showcased by Justin Hutchinson, is called ShadowCopy, which in essence provides Vista with another safety net from human error. In short, it allows users who accidentally saved an incorrect version of a document or overwrote the wrong file to “restore previous versions of [the] document with just a couple of clicks” The feature is a lot like the current System Restore, but works on an individual file level. “It’s better than going back in time,” joked Justin (referring to OSX’s Time Machine).
Continuing with Vista, Hutchinson described how the Ultimate version of Vista will include downloadable extras for those of us willing to shell out the extra money for this particular version. One of the more impressive downloadable programs is Groupshot, which allows users to select parts of different pictures and combine them into one for a better overall image. The aim of this program is to fix awkward facial expressions of an individual in a series of group shots, where the face of a person in one image can be transplanted over onto his or her face in another image.
Another Ultimate Extra is found in the form of DreamScene, which allows users to use full motion video as a desktop background. This feature will probably only be recommendable for those who have enough graphics horsepower to spare after having turned on Aero Glass, not to mention the patience to deal with a distracting video playing in the background.
Virtual Earth 3D:
After a brief Vista discussion, the topic changed to the Virtual Earth 3D technology that’s part of the Windows Live network. Using an Xbox 360 controller, Hutchinson was able to fly a camera around in a fully three dimensional recreation of Sin City. The concept felt a lot like Google Earth with SketchUp, but it’s always nice to see competition.
Windows Home Server:
The next item of interest was the mention of a project that Microsoft has worked on with HP, called Windows Home Server. As the name implies, this will be network attached device that will be available to multiple PCs, Xbox consoles, the Zune music players and any other compatible devices. They can be used for backups or additional storage. Expect to see the HP Media Smart Server in stores later on in the second half of this year.
With Windows Vista, Microsoft will be introducing the concept of Live Anywhere, which basically amounts to being able to play a game, like Uno, on your Vista machine with someone else playing on their Xbox 360, and vice versa. In the future the service will support more “hardcore games.”
Xbox 360 Gets TV:
The entertainment experience doesn’t stop with Live Anywhere. Microsoft also plans to provide its customers with a wide variety of TV content, which it will soon be offering in four different ways.
- 1) HD-DVD – the new addon for the Xbox 360 will provide HD video. More units will be shipped out since they are in “incredibly high” demand.
- 2) Media Center PC – recorded and live TV content can be accessed on the Xbox 360 by networking it with one of these PCs.
- 3) Xbox Live Video – the recently launched service allows users to download HD and SD movies onto the console. The service already has a thousand hours of content. And it’s really simple, because the Xbox is already on the internet and, it’s connected to a big [screen].
- 4) IPTV – with just a simple internet connection and a Xbox 360, you soon can receive standard TV channels (live) over the internet. Microsoft is planning on turning the 360 into a Top Set Box soon after gaining support from third-party telephony companies such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, C-Com and SwissCom.
The new IPTV service will be able to handle both standard and high definition streaming for a variety of different channels. The software includes picture-in-picture support, recording, and other TiVo-type features. The service will NOT be free, but will be much cheaper than paying regular cable and extra equipment. (great for college students)
The final major announcement to come forth from the CES keynote was that Microsoft has partnered up with the Ford Motor Company to offer a “fully integrated, voice activated, in-car communications and entertainment system for mobile phones and digital music players.” This Ford exclusive, called “Synch”, will support Bluetooth, phone book syncing, three way calling, and text-to-speech reading for text messages. Not only will it be compatible with the Zune and the iPod, but as a bonus there will also be a USB port for Flash Thumb Drives.