Microsoft is rolling out a new generation of products that connect cars, game consoles and its new operating system to high-tech gadgets.
Sunday night, the software giant showed off wireless technology that delivers cellphone and e-mail service to Ford cars, never-before-seen
features of its Windows Vista OS and an enhanced version of Xbox 360.
"As everything is more connected, the user is in more control every year," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said in a phone interview Sunday.
"And we want to give them more tools to do that."
Gates spoke hours before he was to deliver the opening speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Gates' speech is like a
State of the Union address on Microsoft's consumer strategy.
According to Gates and a preview of the speech provided by Microsoft, the talk's theme was "Connected Experiences." The speech opens
with a treatise on how consumer-electronics gadgets — be they TV, game consoles or music players — can fit together and how their
content can be delivered to PCs, cellphones — even cars.
Earlier Sunday, Ford Motor demonstrated Sync, a voice-activated technology developed with Microsoft. When it becomes available this
year, drivers will be able to perform hands-free phone dialing and even get incoming text messages through the auto's audio system.
They can also control their digital music players using voice commands or controls on the steering wheel.
Ford plans to put Sync in Focus, Ford 500 and 10 other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles this year. The company gave no pricing.
Gates planned to show for the first time a feature of Vista that allows the use of animated backgrounds.
The feature is one of many eye-popping graphics in Microsoft's first major upgrade to the Windows operating system in more than
five years. Microsoft aims to sell 200 million copies to businesses and consumers worldwide in Vista's first two years.
"In this world of (electronics) convergence, Vista will be at the center of everything for us," Gates said in the interview. "It's the biggest
thing for us." The company announced late Sunday that Vista will be available on a wide range of new PCs and laptops from Hewlett-
Packard, Toshiba, Sony Vaio and Medion beginning with its consumer launch Jan. 30.
The new PCs are designed to take full advantage of Vista's graphics, enhanced security and tablet technology.
Microsoft also unveiled 17 current PC models with Vista capabilities, from Dell, Sony and HP.
Microsoft plans to make IPTV service — television via high-speed Internet connections — available through Xbox 360 gaming consoles
by late 2007. Also on Sunday, pay cable TV network Starz Entertainment said it plans to make its Internet movie download service
Vongo available on home televisions through a partnership with Microsoft.