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January 8, 2007 12:08 AM

Bill Gates at CES: How much longer?

Posted by Brier Dudley

LAS VEGAS -- According to a few good sources, Bill Gates is likely to make one more keynote speech at CES in 2008 before he phases down his Microsoft work to focus more on philanthropy.

One of my sources was Bill himself. During the keynote he joked that he'll probably speak next year but "after that I'm not sure they'll want to invite me because I might talk more about infectious diseases than software."

Gates shared the stage Sunday with Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division.

Bach is the obvious choice to replace Bill delivering CES keynote speeches, since Bach runs the most consumer-electronics focused group at Microsoft.

Steve Ballmer may join Bach on the CES stage after 2008, according to my other source, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer.

I'll be curious to see if they draw the same crowds. Gates is a highlight of the show for thousands of people who line up for hours to hear his annual speech.

This time around Gates didn't bring any celebrities on stage, but he was loose, happy and cracking unscripted, self-deprecating jokes.

During a demonstration of a futuristic, Web-connected bus stop, he joked that "I'm very familiar with bus stops."

Later, he presented a mockup of a kitchen. "It's another place you can imagine I have deep expertise,'' he said.

The kitchen, lifted from the Home of the Future demonstration on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, shows technology could someday be used to keep track of ingredients in a kitchen and suggest recipes when packages are placed on the counter.

Gates put a food processor and a bag of flour on the counter, and he chose a bread recipe.

What I thought was funny was that the instructions given to the world's richest man said: "Step 1. Divide the dough."

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.