Report from the Consumer Electronics Show; show is big forum for Gates
to brag about Microsoft accomplishments in consumer electronics, but
reality is that MS has performed badly compared to Apple and Google...

The 2008 Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up Las Vegas after a week
of conspicuously non-noteworthy events. The highlight of the show was
Bill Gates' formal announcement of retirement from Microsoft, along
with marginally larger TVs and boxes...

[History of CES, how it merged with COMDEX...]

Both CES and COMDEX frequently served as podiums for Bill Gates and
Microsoft, making the fall of all four into increasing irrelevance an
interesting turn of events. Why the consumer electronics world ever
thought it made any sense to pause and listen to Gates is hard to
understand. Microsoft has never ever delivered anything interesting in
the consumer electronics space, and has lost billions of dollars in
every attempt to do so outside of its rebranding of Logitech mice and

[Gates' poor record at prediction, example from 2001 COMDEX:]

"The Tablet takes cutting-edge PC technology and makes it available
wherever you want it, which is why I'm already using a Tablet as my
everyday computer. It's a PC that is virtually without limits -- and
within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC
sold in America."

Tablets are still very dead today in 2008. At CES, Gates similarly
trotted out silly ideas for the press to celebrate, the majority of
which never even materialized as products. Of the few that were sold,
none became noteworthy successes. Microsoft repeatedly announced
applications of Windows CE that went nowhere, along with SPOT watches,
Mira LCD terminals, and various other ideas that drew polite applause
before fading off into obscurity.

The Failure We Don't Speak Of.
While it's not hard to deliver a product that fails to exceed
expectations, Microsoft has done nothing but throw out monstrous
failures year in and out, an effort that seems statistically
improbable considering the engineering and marketing resources
available to the company. For reasons that are not obvious, this
reality has been nearly taboo to point out in print, particularly
among tech critics whose job it is to castigate failure and celebrate

Microsoft's fans like to think of the 2001 Xbox and 2005 Xbox 360 as
successful products, but both have only lost the company billions of
dollars. Over the last seven years, Microsoft has shipped 24 million
Xbox units and 17 million 360 consoles to stores, but has yet to make
any profits.

[Apple did much better during its "beleaguered" years (90's); why
difference in portrayal by press?]

The main difference is that Apple didn't pay wags to spin stories that
were not a realistic portrayal of reality. In terms of devices under
$500, Apple has sold a 120 million iPods in the last seven years....

Over the last year, Microsoft failed to find much interest at all for
its 2007 CES products, including Windows Vista, Windows Home Server,
the Zune, and the remains of the Windows UMPC while Apple stole the
headlines month after month with its new mobile, revised iMac, and
updated fleet of iPods....

Windows Vista was supposed to catch the Windows PC up to the level of
Apple's Mac OS X Tiger, but fell dramatically short in performance,
usability, simplicity, and attractiveness. PlaysForSure and the Zune
were supposed to catch up with Apple's iPod, too; instead, Microsoft
apologists at CNET and Wired were forced to favorably compare
Microsoft's 2007 music players against Apple's classic iPod model,
largely unchanged from 2005.

Outside of the Microsoft groveling tech press, reality more closely
matches what the market has already decided. Next to Apple's current
models, the Zune just looks silly in terms of usability, battery life,
software sophistication, and hardware design.

It's not just Apple that Microsoft is failing to copy; the Windows
Enthusiasts also told us to hold our breath for Soapbox, Microsoft's
version of Google's YouTube that never gained any traction. MSN Search
similarly languished in irrelevance. Outside of its guaranteed
revenues from the Windows and Office monopolies, Microsoft is a
lumbering failure of epic proportions, particularly in consumer
electronics, but also in embedded applications, online media sales,
and mobile phone software....

How many years of yawning failure will it take before those flashing
the applause sign decide to pull the plug and go do something
productive with their careers?