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January 7, 2008


Don’t miss seeing Craig Newmark and John Sculley, among others, at the upcoming Southeast Venture ConferenceFeb 27-28 at the Tysons Ritz-Carlton. 

[Editor’s Note:  Our own Elliott Bisnow, son of the publisher, is on the scene in Las Vegas for the amazing Consumer Electronics Show, and filing daily reports and pictures.]

The show doesn’t begin until this morning, but you get a sense for how it transforms the city from the moment you step into a cab and the driver says, “You here for CES?”  And instead of just the mad throngs of tourists and gamblers, you start to see the 140,000 attendees everywhere because they are required to wear red tags around their necks.  All the veterans know the first highlight is actually the "pre-show" kickoff held last evening at 6:30.  For the last eight years, Bill Gates has been doing it.  But because he’s stepping down from Microsoft, this was his last time.  In the past, lines for the 5000 seats started in the morning, but this year they didn’t want people to go crazy, so they wouldn’t let you start standing until 2 PM.  (Thank goodness for media passes.)

Gates may look wonky but he can be very entertaining.  The presentation was an hour but not a dry speech behind a podium.  He spoke his first five minutes, then presented a satiric video where Bono, Obama, and Hillary poked fun at him.  DC has a healthy contingent here.  I saw Dendy Young (formerly of GTSI, now of McLean Capital) three rows ahead of me, and heard Mark Warner’s here (as only a pseudo-reporter, I’m exercising my prerogative not to check out rumors).  There were JumboTron screens, and a car on stage for one of the demos.  Gates ended by playing “Guitar Hero” (the Microsoft Xbox game) with Guns N' Roses rocker “Slash.”

An example of next generation cell phone usage that Gates showed us:   He’s walking down the Las Vegas Strip and points his cell phone at the Venetian.  Upon doing so, the phone tells him everything he needs to know about the hotel, including the fact he has a CES Keynote address tonight, and that Steve Ballmer is inside throwing away money.   Another example:  Point your phone at a movie theatre, find out what's playing, then buy tickets directly through your phone.

Gary Shapiro, right, is a rock star here.  He’s based in DC as the head of the Consumer Electronics Association, but when he gets to Vegas he becomes the impresario—in the middle of everything, introducing the big speakers and making the place hum.  We met up with him at the post-Gates VIP reception, with his wife Dr. Susan Malinowski, and (naturally) our ubiquitous pal Sudhakar Shenoy.   (See those red tags I told you about.  At least Sudhakar’s says VIP).

Gates talked about three future trends.  Trend 1: High definition experiences will be everywhere.  Whether it’s onto your desk or living room wall, 3D projections will be everywhere.  Trend 2: All rich devices will be interconnected:  music, photos, television, cell phones, and computers. When you take a photo, you won’t have to plug your camera into your computer and certainly not take your camera in to a store. There will be no more searching across devices, having to access multiple email accounts from different locations, or having to constantly update separate calendars on your cell phone and computer.  We are already seeing a lot of progress, but soon everything will be interconnected and organization will be incredibly simple.  (Although, haven’t they been predicting this a long time?)

Trend 3: Devices will begin to use human touch and gestures. The example Gates gave was when you go buy a snowboard.  Rather than buy an off the shelf model with colors you don’t like, every snowboarding and ski shop will have a 3D tablet computer with a touch screen that the consumer can use to customize colors, style, etc.

Ok, get ready for Day Two coverage.  After all, there are1.8 million square feet of show space—of course no one sees everything.  And I’m not the only one here:  95% of the electronic industry’s buying power is in attendance (a $170 billion industry) and there are 4500 press—more than at the Super Bowl.

Cardinal Bank
Venable LLP
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