Bill Gates: live at his 12th and final CES keynote

We're here! Yeah, a bit early, but this place fills some 6,000+ people. Crazy to think that this will probably be the last time Gates ever gets up on stage at CES -- at least it'll definitely be his last hurrah up there as Chairman of Microsoft.

6:25PM PT - Ok! "Ladies and gentlemen, the keynote will begin in five minutes, take your seats please."

6:28PM PT - Two minutes. "PLEASE take your seats." Let's not keep North America's 2nd richest man waiting, shall we?

6:30PM PT - Here we go! Lights are down, harp music.

6:30PM PT - Showing a CES promo video. All about the square footage, bajillions of attendees, keynote speakers -- oh, the hype.

6:33PM PT - "Ladies and gentlemen, president and CEO of the CEA, Gary Shapiro!" Mild applause. "Happy new year, and welcome to 2008 CES!"

"In my opinion, these are the best four days of the year. The floor officially opens tomorrow morning for the ribbon cutting, with cutting edge product..." Woops, teleprompter mistake in there, sorry Gary. Talking about keynotes, the CE industry forecast, and so on.

6:36PM PT - "We're hosting a new program this year..." -- Technologies in emerging countries. "And now, I'm honored to kick off 2008 CES with Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates." Applause! Bill! "He's spoken at CES 11 times... clearly Bill's changed the world, and he's brought his vision to hundreds of millions. His story is legendary."

6:36PM PT - Xbox, Media PC, Smartphone... all products Microsoft's announced at CES. "Microsoft aims to provide the tools to let people connect no matter where they are. ... He's also the world's most successful philanthropist. ... I am proud to introduce to you... Bill Gates!" Big applause! Retro tech video playing before Bill's on.

6:38PM PT - People love playing Xbox 360, using their Media PCs, Smartphones, and Zunes alright. "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates!" That's the what, third, fourth time he's been introduced?

6:39PM PT - "Good evening, it's great to be here and see all the exciting things going on... my first keynote was in 1994. That was a time when Win95 was just coming together, the internet was just getting started, and we entered the start of what we called the first digital decade. The PC installed base grew to over 1b machines..." music, photos, cellphones. "The trend here is clear: all media and entertainment will be software-driven. The first digital decade has been fantastically successful."

6:44PM PT - "We've made a lot of progress. The first digital decade has been a great success. Thousands of companies have worked together... this is just the beginning. There's nothing holding us back from going much faster and further in the second digital decade. But before we talk about that, I want to talk about the fact that this IS my last keynote.... This will be the first time since I was 17 that I won't have my full time Microsoft job.

Brian Williams: "Join us all day as we report on Bill's last full day at Microsoft." Bill drives off in a tiny car, briefcase on top. Ballmer is talking about Bill totally The Office style. Awesome. Bill spins in his chair, plays with action figures.

Matthew McConaughey: "After all these years he's finally taking work-life balance seriously. He's even got a personal trainer."

Ummm, Bill's singing "Big Pimpin'," being produced by Jay-Z. "Let me get one thing straight with you Jay-Z, you can retire, and then UNRETIRE?" Jay-Z: "Yeah, keep 'em guessing."

6:46PM PT - Bono: "Yeah, Bill, I'm a little busy here!" Bill's playing Guitar Hero II. "Bill, we've talked about this before. We're full up in the band. All positions are filled. I know... I know... I can't just replace Edge because you got a high score on Guitar Hero." "Bill's always had a passion for music... and as long as it's not my music, I'm fine with that."

Apparently now Bill's auditioning with Spielberg. "Oh Bill, what money can't buy." Clooney: "Steven, I can't play Bill Gates. Why don't you get Russell Crow to do it? Tom Hanks? Passed on that one too?"

Bill: "I was thinking the last time I was on the show it was really successful..." Jon Stewart: "Yeah, you were great. But you did kind of run off at the end, like it had monkey-pox." Clip of that classic moment, oh yes. Jon's waffling, no Jon, let Bill co-anchor!

6:48PM PT - Bill asks Hillary and Obama to be their running-mates -- Gore: "Oh hey Bill. No, it's not an INCONVENIENT time. Yeah, that was a good one."

Ozzy Osbourne: "We're the first to give credit where it's due. Microsoft Bob? All his."

Bill drives away from Microsoft one last time... all his office stuff falls off his car -- oh Bill. Another Brian Williams clip. And huuuuuge applause. Over 6k people!

6:53PM PT - "I don't think it's an accurate representation... but it was fun to put together." Gee, thanks Bill, ya don't say. "Of course, after the transition, I'll have a few projects I'll pick about the magic of software... how it will advance education and health. The second digital decade will be more focused on connecting people, more focused on being user centric. Microsoft will deliver platforms that will let people build apps -- but they'll run not only on the PC, in the cloud, on the phone, in the car, in the TV."

"We'll use the best of rich platforms and services.... these devices will span work and business. ... The three key elements I'd highlight: high def experiences everywhere. On the wall, in your desk and in your table -- it will just be there, easy to manipulate."

6:53PM PT - The quality of the rendering will be very, very rich, and will apply high quality AV... getting your data, you'll just take that for granted. No longer will users have to bridge between the devices. The master in the cloud -- backing up, searching, connecting -- will be very simple. The information can be shared in a simple way."

"When you get a new phone or want to borrow a device, it'll be a very simple thing to get up and running... organizing memories and having the system find what's relevant to you, that digital memory application will be something broadly used and very important. Devices will know your context, know your location. Finally, the third and most underestimated: the power of the natural user interface."

6:58PM PT - "We've seen new interfaces: touch on the Windows PC, touch on the iPhone." Oh? "The reaction to those natural interface implementations has been very dramatic. People are interested in a simpler way of accessing their information. All of these things come together with the other elements to create very new experiences. We're just at the beginning of this. This is something the software industry will build into the platform."

"The innovation of the previous years will come together... a key building block has been the Windows platform. We will evolve that and use it as the central building block. The last year has been an amazing year PCs. ... A year ago we launched Vista, we have 100 million people using Vista."

"We have great partners building neat, new form-factor PCs... we have online services, we're seeing incredible growth in those. Windows Mobile, over 10 million new users last year, and we'll double that next year. The phones have gotten so rich."

6:59PM PT - I want to give you a quick glimpse about the latest exciting developments." Mika Kramer (sp) has taken the stage: "My lifeline is Windows... gone are the days of multiple sign-ins and multiple hassles. With my single Windows Live ID all my services are integrated, personalized, and connected. Tonight I want to share what's fresh and new -- what helps me stay connected."

7:01PM PT - Windows Live calendar demo.

7:02PM PT - Now doing a demo of the Windows Live photo gallery...

An image of the new Palm!

7:05PM PT - Demo of Live Spaces, Live Video Search. All done!

Bill's back: "Well, I got invited to that snowboard thing, so I now I have to buy one of these things." Bill, you're such a nerd. Surface demo! Bill's talking about the recognition systems, playing with customizing the board.

Bill writes his signature on this snowboard as: "Bill!" in cursive. Nice.

Demoing Surface integration with a phone to send out to Windows Live. "We see surface showing up in many situations -- even here in Vegas -- as a new flexible interface. Another big announcement for us is the introduction of a web technology called Silverlight. It came out with some unique capabilities, shipped in its first version it got a great response."

7:08PM PT - "I'm pleased to announce today we've found a perfect partner to showcase Silverlight: NBC has chosen Microsoft has as its exclusive video partner for online video footage. We'll make it all available live and on demand." Handing off to NBC via video.

Lots of clips from the Olympics -- Bob Costas, yo Bob. / MSN -- video on the web "in high quality and with enhanced features." Bob: "One last thing -- you HAVE to stop calling me. There's simply no place for you on our Olympic broadcast -- there's nothing I can do. Lose my number."

7:11PM PT - "I'll enjoy watching the Olympics... I can watch all the obscure sports." Robbie Bach is up! "It's good to be here again to talk about connected entertainment! I want to talk about the successes we've had in 2007 and talk about what's coming in the future... first, we'll talk about gaming."

"Vista is a great OS for gaming, and Windows is far and away the largest gaming platform -- Xbox has had tremendous success as well. 17.7m consoles shipped to date -- in the US through November we did 3.5b in business, more than the Wii and PS3.. more than the spending on Wii and PS3 combined. We also continue to grow on Xbox Live."

"We have passed the 10 million member mark -- that's six months faster than we expected to get to that number. Certainly a lot of the time people are on Live playing games, but they're also enjoying TV and movies.... ABC and Disney will be bringing their shows to Xbox Live this month. High School Musical, Lost, Desperate Housewives... We're also adding in the movie space."

7:15PM PT - MGM! "Xbox Live will provide 2x on-demand content than any cable or sat provider. Our approach to TV isn't just through Xbox -- Media Center continues its success, and is on the vast majority of PCs in the market to date." Talking about Media Center Extender tech: "New extenders from Samsung and HP -- which we already heard about last week."

Finally Mediaroom (MSFT's awesome IPTV service): "First, we have tech called DVR anywhere -- distribute recorded content around the house." Talking about interactive services with CNN. "The final announcement, last year we talked about the 360 being an STB -- this year we're excited to announce that BT will be the first to provide that capability. But a 360 and use it as an STB for your TV."

"This is not just a hobby, this is something we take quite seriously." That a dig at Jobs and the Apple TV as "Apple's hobby"? Now the Zune, comparing it to the iPod. Yep. "For the first time we'll begin selling the Zune outside the US, in Canada."

7:19PM PT - "Music is an inherently social experience, and that's why we made Zune Social." Robbie's invited a pal, Molly, up on stage to help demo Zune Social, Zune Card, etc.

Ha! Robbie's user name is EDprezz (President of Entertainment and Devices -- high-larious).

Shins, Silversun Pickups, Decemberists, it's a hipster hit parade up in this piece!

7:23PM PT - Robbie's moved on to Sync, demoing that. Robbie asks the Sync machine to play Cars by Gary Numan. Huzzah, Numan!

7:28PM PT - "The other exciting thing that's happening in the auto space is a new upgrade to Sync, which is called 911-assist. If an airbag deploys, the system automatically makes a 911 call --unless you stop it -- so emergency services can come quickly to help you out." Windows Mobile time. "Phones are going to be a BIG platform -- PCs will grow, but phones are the fastest growing platform. We outsell BlackBerry, we outsell the iPhone."

"Tellme is a leader in the telephony space, but in the future they're going to launch something called Say and See." Demoing again -- this app uses GPS and voice recognition to search local listings. Too bad this doesn't appear to be happening on a Windows Mobile phone.

Correction -- definitely not happening on a Windows Mobile phone.

Now Robbie's showing his end of the demo, receiving movie tickets from Molly's Tellme service, then previews a Cloverfield trailer. Talking how well Microsoft is in position to take advantage of integrated (mobile) advertising. Robbie wrap-up time. "Microsoft is poised to deliver. Before our big finale, I wanted to invite Bill on stage to show us the future of where we're going..."

Bill's on, showing a demo of software camera recognition -- knows Robbie owes Bill $20. Knows what it's being pointed at, can show contextual information -- like having a HUD that tells you whatever you want to know about whatever you're looking at in real space.

According to the system Steve Ballmer is, apparently, playing nickel slots. Nice. Bill's about to call up his history of CES keynotes... media, people, and information stacks of clips and data. The Rock 2001 CES keynote flashback for the launch of Xbox. Ah, nice, CES 2005 -- we were there when Conan co-hosted. "The idea is that you don't have to take a lot of manual steps -- this should just happen for you." Robbie: "Now, we have this $20 I supposedly owe you. I want to see how good you are at Guitar Hero 3." Oh snap, they're about to "jam."

Robbie's inviting Guitar Hero champion Kelley Leyone (sp). She's playing Welcome to the Jungle, and certainly a hell of a lot better than we are.

7:39 PM PT - "Well, it turns out I've got my own ringer here." He brings out the Slash. Who is actually playing Welcome to the Jungle, ha.

Robbie's already got his wallet open.

Bach: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much, I'll see you again next year..." Slash is shredding, or whatever it is those guitarists do. "Cool."

Looks like that's it! So long, Bill. I've been liveblogging you since we first started Engadget, and I'm absolutely going to miss this.