America's annual Consumer Electronics Show typically isn't a launching pad for new MP3 players. With the iPod's continued domination over the world of portable audio, most MP3 player manufacturers save their big announcements until later in the year--after Macworld shakes out and before a new crop of iPods arrive in September. That said, CES is a great place to spot new iPod accessories, such as speaker docks, video goggles, headphones, and boom boxes. One thing I can say for certain: CES 2009 will be littered with products proclaiming their iPhone 3G compatibility.
Companies such as Iriver are the major exception when it comes to CES MP3 player announcements. In 2008, Iriver launched 11 portable media players at CES and went away with one of our Best of CES awards. We expect Iriver will come back to CES with another treasure trove of portable audio goodies to show off. In fact, CNET Asia has already caught wind of some possible contenders.
I also wouldn't rule out seeing some new MP3 players from Samsung. Rumors are already circulating that we may see an update to Samsung's popular touch-screen MP3 player, the YP-P2.
Sony is another big player at CES with a track record of making fantastic MP3 players. Some speculate that we'll see a new touch-screen Walkman unveiled at CES 2009, although it seems like an uncharacteristic move coming from Sony.
Speaking generally for MP3 players, we're likely to see even more emphasis placed on price and value, as manufacturers race to compete against SanDisk and Coby in the budget MP3 player space. On the other extreme, manufacturers ambitious enough to try and beat Apple at their own game will continue to incorporate touch screens, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other advanced technologies, in an effort to create cutting-edge appeal.