Sunday late afternoon, when I got to the MGM Grand Hotel complex, I ran into a veteran PC industry person, Nat Goldhaber. We both needed to get tickets to get in to hear Bill speak. This year it was strictly reserved seating in a huge area.

Computer industry's Nat Goldhaber (who ran as USA VP with Hagelin) along with a campaign button I got from him at Agenda
I got a "Media" badge this year. I know it makes it easier to get into some things. When I was asked to write a little piece for the Comdex Show Daily about "Browser-based applications" (the topic of a conference panel I'm leading), I asked for it in return. I went to the Media Reception where they were going to give out the tickets. I ran into people I've been seeing at this conference for years.

Friends from the press
At the appointed moment Comdex (part of a company called Key3Media) people went into the crowds and gave out tickets.

Giving out tickets to Gates' talk, a ticket
There were presentations and panel discussions, I think. I came late and missed the beginning.

Tim Bajarin demoing at media event
As 7 o'clock neared, I walked over to the arena.

Regular people getting their tickets downstairs
Outside the arena I met Jerry Pournelle (of science fiction and Byte/Chaos Manor fame) and Larry Niven (sci-fi along with him):

Meeting Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven and their spouses
We took our seats. The arena is huge. Even so, many people had to see the speech on TV in an overflow area.

The arena which holds 12,000
As I went down to mine, Walt Mossberg and others down on the floor waved and invited me all the way down. A kind gentleman traded seats with me (he ended up higher) so I could sit with them.

Walt Mossberg of the WSJ, Bill Sell of Key3Media (Comdex), Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe
Gates gave his talk. I'm sure it's covered elsewhere. Here are a few pictures:

Gates on stage
As usual, there was a funny video. This time it was just Bill and Steve clowning around, showing a little bit of future technology.

Gates and Ballmer in obligatory funny video: Having fun on a "typical day", Bill "forgets" his wallet again, Bill buys "DOS for Dummies" book for "a friend"
The talk went on and on, with examples of products and partners. Bill calls up others to demonstrate. The new Office looks cool. It uses the extra pixels they now assume are on most new computer screens (compared to the old 640x480) to implement lots of new UIs to get to features they already had but that nobody used. Much more of an advance than the last few upgrades.

Presenting the new vision as everybody listens, demoing the next version of Office
They also showed the new tablet prototypes. These are full-fledged Windows machines but in the form-factors we wanted in the old pen computing days. It felt like the six years since non-Palm pen computing died was skipped over and we were back with the next generation of stuff. Really weird to be back in time yet in the future like that. We had learned to think the dreams were unreal and now they're back. We'll see if this time it works out. They also showed how they are building new Visual tools to make the XML "software-to-software" communication easy to do. That's the new term, like "Peer-to-Peer": Software-to-Software.

 A prototype tablet computer, editing with digital ink (and election joke), demoing .NET tools (live and on big screen), XML results
After the keynote, we all went our ways. I heard there was a media reception as usual, and I had also been invited to a Key3Media dinner. As I walked up the steps next to the escalator for exercise, who should I see getting off but Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO. We walked together in the crowds and talked a bit. (Don't ask me how I get to run into people like this, it just works...) As I walked towards the dinner, he went behind a barrier to go to the press reception. I decided to go in there first. My media badge let me in. Inside Steve and Bill, as they often do, spent a goodly amount of time standing around answering questions from anybody who came up. Eventually they each get a crowd.

Ballmer and Gates answering questions at media reception afterwards
All sorts of media people were there. We got to hold one of the tablet prototypes but not use it. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, though, turned it on and used it a bit anyway. Dick Brass of Microsoft posed with Walt.

Getting Spencer party tickets, posing with the tablet computer
After that I went over to the dinner, and Jerry called me over to the table he was at, where there was still an open seat. It was a very fancy affair, with lots and lots of courses. It was the type of place where all the waiters come over and suddenly place a dish in front of all the guests at once.

Key3Media dinner sitting with the Pournelles, Nivens, Comdex folks and others
On the way to the cabs, we passed a prize on one of the slot areas, a car: A Viper. Drool, drool.

Slot machine grand prize
There wasn't any line for the cabs. I shared one with the Pournelles which took us to our hotels. Then I stayed up and put this together, except for the narrative on this page between the pictures and captions. I posted the first draft. Dumb: I got to bed real late and couldn't sleep late because of the time zone difference. I then got up and typed this. We'll see if I'm awake enough to make it through the day.

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