If the heap of new products that Microsoft displayed at Comdex is any indication of the future of computing, the desktop PC is old news.
In a keynote speech opening the Comdex Fall trade show, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates unveiled prototypes of the portable Tablet PC, which will run on a specialised version of the company's new operating system, called Windows XP Tablet PC edition.
Gates demonstrated Tablet PC prototypes from hardware makers including Compaq and Acer, running a variety of new software applications including one called Journal that blends the company's Word software with handwriting-recognition capabilities.
Gates pledged that the portable devices, due out next year, would become the most popular form of the PC within five years.
"Next year a lot of people in the audience will be taking notes with those tablet PCs," he predicted.
Facing a wall of camera-clicking journalists in a near-filled arena of the MGM Grand, Gates also showed a preview of the Xbox video game console and demonstrated a new Web service built on Microsoft's .Net technology.
Against the backdrop of an uncertain economy and declining PC sales, Gates painted a bright future for technology in which he said the most impressive advances have yet to come. Faster PC chips and improved network connections, combined with widespread use of voice and handwriting recognition, will allow people to get work done faster and more efficiently, he said.
"In the decade ahead, I can predict we will provide over twice the productivity improvements that we did during the 90s."