What's in store at CES 2009

There won't be a ton of surprises, but look for improved HDTVs, and emerging technologies like wireless standards.

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off next week, and premature product news releases and apparent leaks have already been rolling in.

While there's of course a certain amount of surprise in store at the year's biggest tech showcase, there likely won't be anything too unexpected. But that's OK. With the global economy's lashing of some of the biggest and most successful consumer electronics companies, along with the recession here in the U.S., this seems to invite a more subdued type of affair this year in Las Vegas.

The head of the CEA (the company that puts on CES) told Venture Beat that it will indeed be a smaller show than in years past. Attendance will be down 8 percent to 131,000 visitors this year, according to Gary Shapiro. And floor space devoted to exhibitor booths will also be down slightly, to 1.7 million square feet, from 1.8 million in 2008. The number of exhibitors however will remain the same as last year, about 2,700.

That's because though some big-name attendees have dropped out--as CNET News reported in November --some new exhibitors have signed on.

When it comes to products, to know what's in store at the show this time, easy clues can be taken from what many of these same manufacturers were showing at Ceatec in Tokyo in October.

Thin TVs will be big. We just started to see this at CES 2008, and the top-tier TV makers will renew their battle for slimmest set this time. Expect Sharp, Samsung, Hitachi, and Toshiba to compete for thinnest LCD, and a few will try with plasma as well.

But when it comes to thinness, none of them will have anything on Sony, which will of course be showing off its line of OLED TVs. This year it will likely have some competition as Samsung has said it plans to possibly display its latest OLED prototype. For more, check out CNET Editor David Katzmaier's take on HDTVs at this year's show.

For home video, there will be many more products this year that take advantage of Internet connections in the home. Like we've already seen with several Netflix-enabled Blu-ray players and set-top boxes, and Web-connected TVs from Sony and Panasonic, even more devices will jump on that bandwagon this year. LG announced Tuesday it will bring CinemaNow and YouTube videos to its Blu-ray box.

There have already been many apparent leaks regarding what PC makers will reportedly bring to Vegas: a new line of ultrathin laptops from Dell , a new HP/Voodoo combo gaming desktop, and a Lenovo workstation with an extra screen . Sony also has something new, for which the company has tried to create a bit of buzz .

The Netbook craze is in full swing, so anticipate more models and new takes on the form factor. Intel will have a large presence at the show and its chairman will be giving a keynote speech, so there should be more Classmate PC news, perhaps the updated model and new partners.

There will also be a nice variety of emerging technologies. Expect several companies offering 3D products for the home. While 3D itself obviously isn't new, the way it's being applied in consumer products is. Panasonic has its 3D home theater setup, but there should be more gaming-oriented 3D applications too. At Ceatec earlier this year companies like NEC showed mobile 3D screens that didn't require 3D glasses . But if it's still just in the concept stage in Tokyo, it's definitely far from reality for U.S. mobile phones.

Look out for products bearing new wireless standards. Both WHDi and WirelessHD promise to reveal products integrating their wireless high-def video standards. And Wireless USB, which connects peripherals wirelessly, also will have a large presence.

Green technology will have its own pavilion this year, which will include everything from batteries and lightbulbs to cars and trucks.

For more detail on what to look for in each electronics category, see CNET's CES 2009 Preview page.

 

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