CES Preview: Will CES 2008 be overshadowed -- again?

Apple's iPhone announcement stole attention from CES last time around

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CES officially runs Jan. 7 to 10, but Gates' keynote is on the Sunday before the show starts. It is one of the largest technology expositions in the world, with companies displaying thousands of gadgets to an estimated 150,000 attendees.

This year's Macworld, by the way, is Jan. 14 to 18 in San Francisco.

There have been a few disconcerting signs that CES might not be so hot this year. One is the fact show promoters are pushing out lists of sports stars, actors and other celebrities who will be on hand at the show, including Yoko Ono, race car driver Danica Patrick, actor Michael Douglas, world champion Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz and singer Mary J. Blige.

Certainly, there are so many new and improved gadgets at CES every year that companies have to find ways to stand out. More than 2,700 companies will be jostling to show off their wares in venues that take up several huge buildings including the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Sands Expo and Convention Center, and most of the meeting rooms in The Venetian and other resort hotels.

But does CES need celebrity power to take the place of hot gadgets? So far, there are only a few known trends and product announcements on the horizon for the show.

Mobility is a major theme this year in response to strong sales of laptops, which people are starting to favor over desktops. The laptop computer market is growing at a clip of 30% per year, compared with single-digit growth for desktops.

Motorola Inc. is expected to show off new handset and other products at CES, while Yahoo is said to be previewing new mobile technologies that might counter Google Inc.'s Android. Some companies may even show off Gphones made with the Google software. Rumors say that Taiwan-based High Tech Computer Corp. has designed handsets for Google's software and is currently tweaking and perfecting the devices.

Companies are also expected to show off satellite technology for mobile television and HDMI (high-definition, multiple interface) technology to let users connect HD video cameras and cameras to their HD TVs for high-definition display.

There will also be laptop computers with huge hard drives, from 500GB to 1TB, as well as a number of new ultramobile PCs and smart phones on display.

Samsung Electronics Co. is expected to unveil a 31-to-40-in. active-matrix OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV that uses less than half the electricity of a comparable-size LCD TV and is only one-sixth of an inch thick. It's seen as being far easier to mount on a wall than LCDs, which are five to 10 times thicker.

This year, green is gold at CES. Companies are clamoring to become known as environmental allies with less-toxic or more power-efficient PC gear. Expected products include a PC made from corn from Fujitsu Ltd. and a laptop PC from Asustek Computer Inc. that uses bamboo for its casing. The Fujitsu PC uses plastics made from biodegradable products, including castor beans and corn, according to the company's U.S. publicist. Does that really make the casing biodegradable? In the end, the company will have to prove that the casings do break down and how long it takes.

Other companies are expected to show off energy-efficient components such as microprocessors, memory chips and batteries, as well as full systems including servers, PCs and laptops.

Automotive electronics will be more prominent at this year's CES. And it's more than Global Positioning System devices (of which there will be many). Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of General Motors Corp., will give a keynote speech at CES, purportedly about new technology for cars.

Electronics have found their way into more parts of cars, orchestrating how hybrid cars use different power sources such as gas and electricity. Other automotive technologies include software to allow you to tell your car to turn on the radio or answer the phone, such as Sync, so you can keep your hands on the wheel.

There will be plenty of new stuff to check out at CES. Whether it can beat out the Macworld expo for this year's technology spotlight remains to be seen.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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