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Gates kicks off farewell tour in Vegas

Getting ready to spend more time with his fridge

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Bill Gates took the stage at CES last night to sing the first notes in a swan song that promises to eclipse even Tony Blair’s long goodbye.

The Microsoft founder, who will step down from the company later this year, gave attendees his latest thoughts on the future of a digital revolution which some believe he largely brought about, and others believe he has ruined through his firm’s ropey products and aggressive business tactics.

He told the audience: “During the next Digital Decade, technology will make our lives richer, more connected, more productive and more fulfilling in profound and exciting ways.”

Part of this, he claimed, would be through the use of “natural” interfaces – essentially being able to use hand and body gestures to interact with the computer or other devices.

Of course, Microsoft has been part-way there for years, with users well used to making hand (and even foot) gestures at kit running Microsoft software. It’s just that to date, the software has failed to respond appropriately.

In a farewell interview accompanying the speech, Gates told USA Today that “(everyday computing) will be far more pervasive... multiple people sitting in front of a photo collection working together. It will be on the refrigerator. Just far easier to get to.”

This of course sums up visions of post-Microsoft Bill wandering the house, mooching in the fridge while pulling up photos of Steve and the rest of the gang and wondering what great things they’re all developing.

Yet Gates proved to the crowd that he won’t be lonely in his retirement. He roped in the likes of Bono, Steven Spielberg and George Clooney to appear in his habitual keynote video. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton even made an appearance. Luckily for the rest of us, he won’t be pursuing a career in music, or politics, or movies.

Instead, his foundation will be his major focus. He told USA Today that “I'll be diving into global health, which is almost like the early days of PCs (in) the way you build partnerships.” Of course, Gates has now made his billions, so hopefully this time, when he says “partnership” he means it in the way the rest of us understand it. ®

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