Gates Faces Down Blue Screen of Death

In his seventh appearance as the keynoter of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft monarch Bill Gates demonstrated the blue screen of computer death.

According to several reports from journalists who actually attended CES, Gates crashed in the midst of a daring attempt to transmit digital photos to a Microsoft Media Center home server. A Microsoft product manager also failed to access the Internet with a Tablet PC.

No injuries or expletives were reported in either incident, and 'twas not Gates' first demonstration of the dreaded blue screen. He crashed a PC with Windows ‘98 at Comdex seven years ago, eliciting a "Fatal Exception Error" message.

The intrepid Gates pressed on in the face of death, propounding the wonders of the "digital lifestyle."

"The PC has a central role to play, in that it's where it all comes together--e-mail, instant messaging; if you want to organize your memories in a rich way, if you want to edit photos, if you want to create papers. But, it won't be the only device," he told the crowd of acolytes and others gathered in the 1,500-seat Las Vegas Hilton theater.

In the absence of a new version of Windows or Xbox to introduce, Gates focused on Microsoft partnerships. For example, Tivo's new mobile service, TiVoToGo, will be compatible with Windows MediaPlayer 10 and allow uploads to PCs using Microsoft software. Gates also announced that Microsoft teamed up with LG Electronics on a new DVE recorder with Microsoft Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, allowing users burn DVDs and share them on Windows XP platforms. Pioneer and Digitrex also got mentions for building HDTVs with Windows Media Connect technology that allows music and still digital photos to be played on the TV sets. An IPTV deal with Bell South was disclosed, as was an alliance with Samsung involving a portable media device, and a content download deal with Viacom's MTV Networks.

Gates also managed to get in a somewhat veiled plug for VC-1, the video compression codec under consideration as a SMPTE standard.

"We need a lot of standards, standards for how the media works, the rights management works, to keep this all very simple, because no scenario can be delivered unless all the devices are coming together," said Gates, who played straight man to Conan O'Brien.

O'Brien opened for the billionaire geek with lines like, "I think I saw more women at Elton John's bachelor party, to be honest."

O'Brien had his own announcement at the show.

"High-tech gadgets have become such a cultural phenomenon that NBC has produced a made-for-TV movie about CES," he said. "They just finished casting it, and I have the exclusive, never-before-seen list of who is playing who in this incredible movie about CES."

O'Brien's list included Terry Bradshaw as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Rob Glaser, founder and CEO of Real Networks, played by ‘Seinfeld's' Neuman; and Ringo Starr as Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs.

"Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy will be played by a Ken doll. Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos will be played by an emu… Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen will be played by Janet Reno… Dell Computer's Michael Dell will be played by 12-year-old Fred Savage… the Google guys will be played by Turner and Hooch, and finally, the man of the hour, Bill Gates will be played by Milhouse from "The Simpsons," he said.

Mid-announcement, O'Brien observed, "I will never be asked back."