In addition to pontificating about the future of electronics, hanging out with some very cool guests and indulging in a spot of Xbox gaming Bill Gates has traditionally used his CES opener to unveil new Microsoft gadgets and innovations.
However, if you do a quick where are they now? search for many of the CES-launched gadgets it becomes clear that getting a plug from Gates at the show is in many instances actually the fast track to the gadget dead pool. Here are a few products that haven’t quite fared as well as Microsoft had hoped.
1 Smart Displays (2002) – Codenamed Mira the Smart Display was an LCD monitor that could moonlight as a web tablet when plucked from its base station. Launched in a blaze of hype, Microsoft was so unsuccessful at attracting manufacturers to build the monitors that it pulled the plug on the project in 2003.
2 SPOT watches (2004) – I remember being blown away by SPOT technology when Bill demoed it in 2004. It enabled users to grab information such as news, sports updates and weather reports from their watch which had been sent over FM airwaves. Microsoft lined up a pretty decent selection of watch makers to support the launch and talked of rolling SPOT out on to other devices. Alas, although very clever, consumers seemed happy getting that information from their mobile phones and wanted timepieces for, err, telling the time and SPOT never became anything more than a niche gadget.
3 Portable Media Centers (2004) – Billed as Microsoft’s iPod killer the PMCs not only delivered quality audio but could display images and video on their large-ish (for a potable device) screen. Microsoft signed up many makers including Samsung, iRiver and Creative but then saw the gadgets ignored by a largely unimpressed public. Microsoft eventually replaced the PMCs with the Zune.
4 Microsoft Windows Tablet XP edition (2002) – Another highlight from 2002 the Windows Tablet XP edition was attempt by Microsoft to propel touch screen keyboard-less computers into the mainstream. While they still have a devoted following, they haven’t really been sold in quite the numbers that Gates and his team had hoped.