Over the years, some of the most successful home-electronics products -- the compact disc, satellite TV, DVD, high-definition TV -- have launched at the four-day extravaganza known as the International Consumer Electronics Show.
And while this year's CES in Las Vegas, already the largest trade show in the U.S., is expected to draw a near-record 150,000 attendees, plenty of attention will be paid to what -- and who -- is not in attendance.
Some of the most-popular electronics products in recent memory -- Android smartphones, Apple iPhones and iPads, Amazon.com's Kindles -- have hit the market without using CES as a launching pad. Apple has rarely been an official participant and will again be absent, although iPad- and iPhone-related products will be abundant.
This will be the first annual gathering without Microsoft playing a major role in nearly two decades. The software giant, which released its Windows 8 operating system in the fall, will not have a booth, nor will CEO Steve Ballmer be a keynote speaker -- something the company has done since then-CEO Bill Gates' first CES keynote in 1998. In the keynote slot this year is Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, a signal of the importance that mobile technology plays at the show.
On hand, but not making any major announcements -- with a single meeting room each and no booth -- are Amazon and Google, two more companies behind many of the most-successful gadgets brought to market in recent years. Not registered: Facebook.
Still, many of those companies will have representatives participating in panel discussions and meetings -- and scouting the competition. Microsoft, for example, is sponsoring the show's innovations design and engineering showcase.
Despite some high-profile holdouts, the show goes on.
"A lot of manufacturers like Samsung and Philips and Panasonic will relax, and they won't have to be in Microsoft's shadow for once," says Richard Doherty, director and co-founder of engineering and research firm the Envisioneering Group.
This year's CES, which officially begins Tuesday, promises to be the largest ever. Its 1.8 million square footage is the equivalent of more than 31 football fields or 393 basketball courts -- with 3,000 exhibitors ranging from audio and speaker company Altec Lansing to tangle-free headphones maker Zipbuds. Also revved up for CES: a fleet of seven of the world's top 10 automakers, including Audi, Chrysler, Ford Motor, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia and Subaru.
An expected crowd of 150,000 compares with last year's record 156,000. About 20,000 products are expected to be on display.
Beyond the slew of audio, video and mobile devices, specific areas will be devoted to start-ups, green technology and digital health innovations. "It's not an overstatement to call today's CES 'the mother of all trade shows,'" says John Taylor, vice president of LG Electronics USA.
Televisions typically steal the show at CES. This year, TV makers are catering to consumers with smarter and better-looking sets. Smart TVs aren't new but continue to evolve despite evidence consumers aren't that enamored of them.
Only about 15% of HDTV owners connect their TVs directly to the Internet, according to The NPD Group. Many of those who watch services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Video deliver them to their TV via other devices, including video game consoles, streaming-media set-top boxes and Blu-ray Disc players.
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