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CES 2014: What to expect

With one of the planet's biggest technology parties just days away, CNET briefs you on all the gadgetry that CES 2014 could bring.

Preparing for CES, as seen here last year, is a massive operation.
Sarah Tew/CNET

In less than a week, the tech world will again turn its attention to Las Vegas as established companies and hopeful newcomers flock to the desert for CES 2014. Now in its 47th year, CES remains one of the most important events on the industry's calendar, even as other shows like Mobile World Congress and IFA battle for the gadget spotlight.

As we've long done, CNET will be on the ground in force at CES to show you everything, whether it's just an idea or a real product with a power switch. Lindsey Turrentine, Editor-in-Chief of CNET Reviews, outlines our complete plans in her post from yesterday, but you can be sure that we'll cover every inch (or centimeter) of the show floor with live blogs of major press conferences, video First Looks of the hottest products, and live events from CNET's stage. And if you'd rather take your tech news in Spanish, CNET En Espanol will be in Vegas, as well.

So what exactly will all that news be? Well, that's the critical question that we ponder each year as we pack our bags. CNET editors have already posted detailed predictions for the major Reviews categories like tablets, smartphones, cameras, computers, and home audio. Click through to our ginormous CES package to read them all, but if you're pressed for time I'll give you the highlights here.

Wearable products like the Fitbit Force, Pebble, Samsung Galaxy Gear (l-r) will be big at CES 2014. Sarah Tew/CNET

Wearabales for the win
Yes, wearables are a new and very niche category, but their rapid growth in 2013 signals an even bigger 2014. We expect lots of new wearable tech at CES, from existing pioneer vendors like Fitbit and Pebble, megacompanies like LG, and new startups searching for attention. We expect a glut of fitness trackers and a fair number of smartwatches, as well. And though Google won't have a booth in Las Vegas, don't be surprised to see new Google Glass apps along with competing smart glasses, visors, and augmented-reality goggles (yes, Oculus Rift will be in Vegas again this year).

A smarter home
For 2014, we're excited about our first CES with CNET's new appliances team. And just in time, for the notion of a "smart home" with your smartphone, appliances, and thermostat talking to each other took a big leap in 2013. At CES, look for developments in DIY home security, locks that don't need a key, and home lighting like nothing you've ever seen. That last category is especially timely, given that sales of 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbswill be banned in the United States starting January 1.

And smarter cars
With the massive Detroit Auto Show immediately following CES, auto makers typically use Las Vegas to demonstrate connected car technologies rather than actual new cars. That trend will continue this year -- look for Google to announce an Android partnership with Audi vehicles, for instance -- but we also should see more announcements around alternative fuels and even self-driving vehicles. Audi, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz, for example, will be demonstrating their autonomous test vehicles at CES. These self-driving cars won't be ready for sale just yet, but CES will show just how far along we are.

Get ready for Steambox
As desktops fade away, hybrid devices that blur the line between laptop and tablet take their place. Of course, we'll see more of those products at CES, but the biggest story should be Valve's Steambox. Though the first demo kits are just being sent to beta testers, it puts another nail in the desktop coffin by eliminating the big and bulky models that center on gaming. And if the predictions surrounding Steambox do bear out, then this may be the most exciting CES that we've seen for gaming in a long time.

Big, big TVs have long been a staple of CES. Josh Miller/CNET

Smaller steps
The TV category has long dominated CES, and though it will do so again, the category's steps forward in 2014 should be smaller. 4K TVs will be big, but plasma displays will be few and far between, if we see them at all. OLED, on the other hand, isn't going anywhere just yet, and that includes the mainstream. Even if we see new OLED TVs at CES, which isn't terribly likely, they'll remain far too expensive for most consumers. Look also for more apps and smarter TVs that respond to voice commands. And this being CES, we'll absolutely see lots of TV eye candy like curved displays and monitors of a mammoth size.

Believe it or not, some of those same TV trends will make their way to smartphones. Bigger displays, curved displays, and higher-resolution displays will be key trends. New developments in hands-free controls won't be far behind, and 64-bit chips will continue to proliferate. On the whole, though, while smartphone news will be made at CES, most vendors will be holding their bags of tricks close until Mobile World Congress in late February.

Until next week
As a reminder, CES begins next Tuesday, January 7, 2014, and runs through the following Friday. There also will be a lot of action on Monday, the official CES press day, when press conferences crowd the schedule early in the morning until late in the evening (we'll post a full list of all events CNET will be covering shortly). And on Sunday afternoon, the fun really begins with CES Unveiled at the Mandalay Bay.

So, until this weekend, enjoy your New Year's Eve and the first few days of 2014. Then, as the clock ticks to this weekend and the confetti is cleaned from Times Square, come back to CNET for everything CES.