Home electronics convergence is here

January 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
This July, Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, will step down from day-to-day management of the software company he founded to focus on his charitable foundation. In the meantime, his vision of making computers and home entertainment one and the same is getting closer to reality. Gates' dream is a major focus at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It's the eighth and last time Microsoft Chairman Bill gates is speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show. It's the biggest gathering of the year where the latest home entertainment devices make their debut. Gates' long-time dream was to see convergence of computers, software and home electronics -- and that time has come.

"Those applications will run not only on the PC, up on the Internet -- in the cloud as we say -- on the phone, in the car, in the TV," said Gates during his CES speech.

Mobile phones are fast becoming portable Internet devices. Yahoo! unveiled a new home page for cell phones to make Web access easier.

"It's been hard for consumers to find what they're looking for on mobile. It's a challenge," says Ojas Rege, vice president of Yahoo! global mobile products.

Chipmaker Intel has created new chips that run portable devices longer on a battery charge.

"They want the notebook to last maybe four, five, even 10 hours. That's what Intel is working on now. We're making the chips more powerful, but also much, much more miserly in consuming electricity," says Sean Maloney, Intel executive vide president.

Mobile computing is the big push now because the market potential is so big.

"There are three billion people who own mobile phones versus about one billion people who own PCs," says Sandeep Aggarwal, senior research analyst with Oppenheimer.

The touch screen that has made the iPhone a hit will gravitate to handheld sized devices like this one to make mobile computing easier. Making them simple to use and easy to learn will be essential for consumers to adopt them.

"These devices need to become a lot easier for people to use and not to have such a high learning curve," says Dan Gallager, technology analyst for MarketWatch.com

Bill Gates steps down at a crucial time as the industry is about to change radically, but he leaves it in good hands with many companies, such as Intel and Yahoo! and others who are ready to move forward.