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Work in progress: Sitting in the orchestra with Microsoft execs courtesy of a Microsoftie, who saved me from overflow oblivion when I explained how I had to be on hand for the MTV Urge announcement. We’re getting a first look at Microsoft Vista now from an exec, including a plug for a feature produced MSN partner Fox Sports. RSS gets a mention as does a new feature called “quick tabs” that open as as you click on links. People using the next gen of Microsoft Flight Simulator will need real dramamine, it’s that vivid.
— Urge: MTV Networks’ Music Group President Van Toffler joined Gates for a first look at MTV Urge, the new music service being devloped around a new version of Microsoft Media Player, which will be number 11. Toffler: “With Urge, we’re undertakiing a long journey with music fans and this is just the begnning.” User input will help direct the service. “They will tell us what sucks and what they think about the service.” Justin Timberlake was imported to show the tie-in to artists; he will work with Urge for the debut of his next album. Describing himself as a consumer as well as an artist, “always interested in the newest and coolest things and from what I’ve seen I think Urge is going to be it.”
— Media Center: Gates just announced new content deals with DirecTV and BSkyB. The Media Center will work with regular and HD programming from DirectTV; still getting the details but a very interesting move. Microsoft uses sessions like this to highlight partners. Starz’s new Vongo is getting big play right now as a media center exec shows off portable devices from LG and Toshiba that use Media Center software. Windows Live will integrate personal TV programming with Windows Live Messenger, a feature that lets you interact with the service as though you’re IMing a person. The same service will show you the faves of any of your buddies willing to participate.
— IPTV: Between the last two sections, Gates gave a pep talk for Microsoft’s IPTV software. “Last yeaer we did trials, This is the year (our partners) will be rolling out in commercial deployments. … That’s when you’ll really start to see the inniovation come in.”
— Xbox 360: Microsoft will introduce an external Xbox 360 HD DVD drive this spring. Now Gates and Steve Ballmer are playing Ali-Frazier in EA’s HD boxing game. (No, they aren’t wearing boxing shorts.) Gate’s/Ali wins, of course — and the graphics are so, well, graphic and real, you could even hear sounds of disgust from the crowd as the blood spewed from Frazier’s mouth.
— 2006: Year Of Digital Lifestyle: Or so says Gates in his wrap-up. “This all has to work across these devices … It’s got to be user-centricâ