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Renay San Miguel: CES blog

CNN Headline News anchor Renay San Miguel is following the events at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show.

The elephant in the room

CNN Headline News anchor Renay San Miguel



Las Vegas (Nevada)
Bill Gates
Consumer Electronics

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2 p.m. ET

This is supposed to be the Consumer Electronics Show. Who invited Internet companies to this party?

When did a show that used to be all about TV's, stereos and computers spend all its time touting content like music, movies, DVD's?

I take a walk around all the booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center and I'm amazed at the changes wrought since the 2002 CES. Now it's about what you feed your gadgets, not just the gadgets themselves.

The fact that the Google and Yahoo CEO's are giving big speeches at this year's CES is fodder for the reporters and analysts who cover technology issues. Guys like Brian Cooley of CNET and Michael Gartenberg, vice president of Jupiter Research, told me that the invitations to speak signal the importance of content to the "traditional" tech/hardware companies like Sony, Microsoft and Intel.

Google and Yahoo are said to be launching new download services that would include digital music, movies and videos. Users will install software downloadable from the two search giants that will reportedly allow them to manage their media for a range of devices, from PC's to handheld gizmos.

But this is about more than just Google and Yahoo and the content-driven partnerships that the digital age is forcing on most companies. Most of the major product announcements made by the likes of Microsoft, Intel and Sony are all in response to another company that doesn't even have a booth here this week.

Apple is the digital elephant in this big room, thanks to the way it has made downloading music -- and now movies -- easy to do for the usually tech-intimidated consumer. Best of all, Apple has also made all of this cool.

And if Bill Gates, Sony's CEO Howard Stringer, Intel's CEO Paul Ottelini and others presenting their versions of iTunes and iPods are lucky, their announcements this week won't be drowned out by whatever Apple's Steve Jobs has up his sleeve next week at his own big tech show, Macworld, in San Francisco.

One-on-one with Gates

Posted: Thursday, January 5, 1:25 p.m. ET

It's one thing to land a one-on-one interview with Microsoft chairman, co-founder and chief software architect Bill Gates. It's quite another to get him off-message during that interview.

Politicians probably don't get the kind of media training that Gates receives.

I sat down for an eight-minute interview with Gates Wednesday here at the CES.

It happened inside a mockup of what his company believes should be a Microsoft-powered digital living room; imagine a high-end Biosphere littered with Xbox 360s, 50-inch plasma TVs, PCs big and small and furniture straight out of an Ikea showroom.

Lots of blue and earth tones, probably all designed to make you feel cozy as you surf the Web from your couch on a Windows Media Center PC.

Gates was there to talk about Windows Vista, the latest version of his computer operating system which should be available in the fall.

Gates looked much thinner than I can recall in eight years of off-and-on visits with him. During that time I have seen him at his best and worst. I've interviewed him when he was excited and actually cracking genuine smiles during the launch of Windows 2000 in San Francisco.

And I spoke with him at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, on the day the U.S. Justice Department filed its famous anti-trust lawsuit against him. His curt answers and weak handshake spoke volumes about his mood on that day.

He actually yelled at me here in Vegas during our chat at the 2002 Consumer Electronic Show. He was not expecting the question I asked regarding Microsoft and AOL. As soon as the cameras stopped rolling, he lit into me and stalked out of the room.

Not everybody gets cursed at by a future Time magazine Person of the Year.

It was a mellower Gates who heard my questions Wednesday on Windows security flaws, the lack of Xbox 360 video game consoles on store shelves during the holiday shopping season and competition from Sony's forthcoming Playstation 3. As I said, he mostly sticks to the script no matter how you frame the questions; he talks up Windows convenience, customer choice, software innovation and allowing "the sharing of memories."

Sorry gaming fans: Gates says it will be June before there are enough 360s to address demand.

But he expects to win the Christmas shopping season battle with the PS3 in December. And he didn't really give a deep answer regarding computer security, only saying that it's an area requiring more work and that Vista would deal with spyware.

CES no geekfest

Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 10:25 a.m. ET

I must resist all temptation to call the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas the mother of all geekfests.

After all, 2005 saw the rise of iPod culture, movies and TV shows over the Internet (legally...and on your iPod), cell phone cameras, blogging, podcasting, Wi-Fi, video games in your back pocket (and on your cell phone)...all contributing billions of dollars to America's economy and all sending shock waves through traditional media.

So now everybody is embracing his or her inner geek, which is why the 2006 version of the electronics show is expected to be the biggest one yet in terms of attendance, company announcements...and Las Vegas' soon-to-be-overtaxed taxis.

I will be here to cover it all for CNN Headline News. And like a true 21st-century journalist, I will also be podcasting for CNN Radio and blogging here at

I will do my best to take you deep within the Las Vegas Convention Center's cavernous exhibit hall, as companies big and small vie to become part of the media buzz.

We will be seeking those products and services that will end up being tomorrow's iPod. Maybe some of them aren't yet plugged into the tech hype machine. Perhaps some of them, like the worst of the 1990s Internet boom, are truly dumb ideas just waiting to land with a big thud at your neighborhood Best Buy.

Here's what I will be looking for in the convention center's exhibit hall:

  • More video over the Web to your computer. Or to a portable device. Or to your TV. Or maybe even directly into your skull. The cable channel Starz has already started things off with the announcement of their $9.99 Vongo service, delivering movies to your favorite device. More developments like this are on the way.
  • The next round in the scrap between satellite and terrestrial radio, the latter expecting to roll out more news about high-definition radio in your hometown as a way to take on an unshackled Howard Stern. This could expand the number of stations you get on your car radio, but how much will the high-def receivers cost? And will they be easy to install and use?
  • The coming battle between high-definition DVD and Blu-Ray DVD. Your next DVD player will support one of these two new formats that promise better image quality, but will also force movie studios, makers of DVD players and consumers to make a VHS vs. Betamax-style choice.
  • Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates starts things off Wednesday with his keynote address, where he is expected to talk more about his company' role, the newest version of Windows and holiday sales for the Xbox 360.

    I am scheduled to talk with Gates later. The entire interview will be eventually available at, with excerpts on Prime News Tonight Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. Check it out, and check back here throughout the week for more blog updates from the Consumer Electronics Show.

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