Techies flock to Vegas-fest
CES, the year's biggest gadget show, kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas; Disney, CBS chiefs among key speakers.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- For the digerati, the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas is about to begin.
Monday marks the official start of the Consumer Electronics Show, the week-long extravaganza that is the tech industry's biggest blowout of the year.
Thousands of technophiles from Wall Street to Hollywood will flock to Sin City to hobnob and hear the latest product launches. Some 2,700 companies have signed up to exhibit their digital wares, while industry luminaries from Bill Gates to Bob Iger are scheduled to speak.
This year's focus won't be on radical new technologies, industry analysts predicted. Instead the emphasis will be about making existing products and services more user-friendly.
A key topic will be the digital home living room. Tech enthusiasts have long touted the day when consumers can access all of their entertainment - from music to movies to photos to the Web - from their TV. Today the focus isn't on a distant dream but on practical solutions that will make setting up home networks easier.
"Each year, more of the [digital living room] puzzle is filled in," said Roger Kay, president of consulting firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Instead of companies selling piece parts, we're starting to see them embrace total solutions that make the whole process simpler."
A big part of making technology user-friendly: offering services people want to use.
"It's not about technology for technology's sake. It's about giving consumers a reason for wanting the technology," said Michael Goodman, a digital entertainment analyst with Yankee Group, a tech research firm.
"We're going to hear more detente between the entertainment content industry and consumer electronics manufacturers who want to give consumers what they want - which is entertainment where they want it, when they want it," said Richard Doherty, an analyst with research firm Envisioneering Group.
Motorola (Charts) CEO Ed Zander also is on tap to deliver a keynote. As consumers increasingly use cell phones as their primary communication device, mobile applications - such as GPS location and navigation, and media offerings like video - are likely to generate a lot of attention, analysts added.
While the bigwigs from the media and entertainment industry will inject fresh blood into the show - which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year - don't expect old-timers to sit back quietly.
Gates will get things started as usual with a pre-show keynote Sunday night. While exhibitors last year obsessed on ways to ride the iPod gravy train, this year the Vista effect is expected to take center stage as exhibitors find ways to tie their products into the latest update of Microsoft's (Charts) Windows operating system.
Dell (Charts) founder Michael Dell also is on tap to speak at the event. The troubled PC maker hasn't had much success in the consumer field, but it's an important industry leader and has been quiet in the last six months, which may be a sign that it's gearing up to make a big announcement, Doherty said.
One major tech heavyweight that won't be present at CES is Apple (Charts), which will be hosting its own mega-event, known as MacWorld. Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicks off that gathering with a keynote in San Francisco Tuesday.
MacWorld overlaps with CES this year, but Jobs is expected to make another blockbuster announcement. Not wanting to miss out, some CES attendees are planning to shuttle back and forth between the two events.
An iPhone has been widely rumored to be in the offing this year, but some analysts predict Apple won't debut it at MacWorld since the company may still be in negotiations with carrier partners.
iPhone or not, Jobs isn't likely to disappoint Apple fans. Last year he announced the widely anticipated Intel-based Macs. In 2005, he rolled out the hugely-popular iPod shuffle.