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January 7, 2007

CES: Gates about to lecture

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 5:52 PM

LAS VEGAS -- The woman sitting next to me said it best. "This is a zoo. Look at this just to go to the lectures."

Well, a Bill Gates keynote -- at least for the crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show -- is something more than a lecture. I fought through a mob to be among the first in line at the big white doors to the Palazzo ballroom in the Venetian here in lovely Las Vegas.

When the doors opened for the press and VIPs to enter, it was a no-holds-barred sprint to the best seats. I feel pretty lucky to have gotten to a center spot, four rows back from the stage. In front of me are three rows of photographers and then Bill. But now we wait.

The keynote isn't set to begin for another 50 minutes. People are sipping on beer and wine, watching jugglers on stilts and chatting in several languages over the non-descript rock and pop music (to my ears, anyway) thumping through the cavernous room. I can only guess at how many people will pack this place -- they're still filling in -- but I'd guess it will be several thousand at least.

The staging for this lecture is elaborate. Dozens of spotlights on gyroscopes hang over head. On stage, there are several large screens, a demo station, a futuristic living room scene complete with a huge hi-def flat-screen TV connected to an Xbox 360, another scene that could be a home office, and another one that looks like a bedroom. It's all set in front of a blue-green background emblazoned with "Microsoft" no fewer than seven times.

So, what's he going to talk about? That's under embargo for a little while yet. We know about the Ford announcement from earlier today, which certainly drew some visceral responses from readers of this blog.

Check back here and on Brier Dudley's blog for all of our CES coverage.

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