Other trends expected at the show include a higher profile for security and surveillance technologies in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Remote cameras and other applications "will be featured a little bit more," McNealy says.
Expect audio to get more attention this year. As HDTV displays get larger but have less of a bezel framing them, there's less room for TV speakers -- and most built-in TV speakers fail when it comes to a premium sound experience anyway.
That means a bumper crop of sound-bar speakers that can be mounted or sit below the display. And many sound bars will be able to connect to TVs and other products over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Near-Field Communication radio waves.
There's a growing movement for better-sounding music, too. Portable music players that go beyond CD quality music will be on display, as will better-sounding speaker docks and other portable music innovations.
Many music lovers who bought premium headphones such as the Beats By Dr. Dre products "are ready for the next level," says Noel Lee of Monster, which manufactured Beats By Dr. Dre products for five years before the two companies parted ways last year. "The feedback we are getting is, 'What's next? How do I get to higher quality?'" Lee says.
Increased attention to audio could suggest a slight shift toward CES' past. During the early days of the electronics show -- the first gathering was in New York in 1967 -- audio ruled. Now, audio and video products commingle with mobile devices and electronics integrated into cars and kitchen appliances. The increased size and variety of products at CES "drives companies to be better and not be stagnant, and drives awareness with consumers," Lee says.
Part of the reason many major product releases are done outside of CES is that the tech world moves too fast for companies to hold their unveilings for the annual show, says Stinziano of Samsung, which will leave new smartphones for other venues. "The pace of the industry is so fast," he says. "It's pretty difficult to keep anything secret from anybody anymore. Also, a lot of the innovation comes out of some technology demonstrations that we will do or others will do."
Many companies now use CES as a sounding board or proving ground. As a result, there are more products floated at the show than actually hit the market.
For instance, those slim, splashy OLED TVs that were all the rage at last year's CES will be on display again. Although several TV makers expected to ship them late last year, that has yet to happen. Earlier this week, LG announced that its first OLED TVs will go on sale in South Korea next month with U.S. pricing and availability to come.
"The real frustration is that there is a high double-digit percentage of stuff that is shown (at CES) but doesn't ship," Doherty says. "It's a really popular stage, but it is so darn noisy and crowded right now that consumers aren't as able to trust it as much as, say, five or 10 years ago, as to where they should put their dollars for April and May and August."
As with tech advances, CES evolves. Even in the always-connected world, face-to-face meetings between product makers, buyers, investors and analysts still mean something, says Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on CES.
"The show is not just about innovation and technology, it's about human relationships and evaluating something in a five-sense environment where you could shake someone's hand," he says. "It's also about the discovery of things and serendipity."
As for the show's post-Microsoft popularity, business couldn't be better. International attendance is expected to surpass last year's mark of 35,000, and the show floor is completely sold. "If we had more space, we would have sold it," Shapiro says.
Among the exhibitors will be game company Razer, a CES returnee that last year introduced its conceptual Project Fiona gaming tablet and returns this year. Before graduating to a booth on the show floor several years ago, Razer showed off its PC and video game accessories in meeting rooms.
"It's a great venue for launching new products, because all the right people are there," says company co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan. "It tends to give a forward look at what the industry is headed towards. It's still the most important show of the year."
(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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