Will CES bring the next iPhone?

January 4, 2008 1:39:33 PM PST
Armed with celebrities, rock stars and larger-than-life gadgets, electronics Goliaths and their David-like counterparts will try to make a splash in Las Vegas this weekend at the Consumer Electronics Show. In a bid to capture consumers' minds and wallets in 2008, manufacturers will showcase their best and brightest wares at one of the world's biggest tech shows, among them a refrigerator that charges your iPod and cell phone, a DIY build-your-own gadget and a 150-inch plasma TV. As companies pay thousands of dollars to participate, celebrities get a piece of the action: Jerry Seinfeld, David Ortiz, Michael Douglas and Mary J. Blige are just a few adding their star power to the festivities.

In kind, fan boys and reporters alike look to the show for emerging trends as indicators of what could be appearing under your Christmas tree next season. But show goers ? and later consumers ? will likely find less new technology in years past and more upgrades and improvements of 2007's hottest items, according to analysts.

"Right now we're kind of in a little bit of a dip in the technology cycle," Chris Null, a columnist for YahooTech, told ABCNEWS.com. "A lot of things have been percolating for a couple of years ? HDTV, Windows Vista. A lot of people are still getting their computers up to speed. People aren't really pushing the envelope in 2008. People are playing catch-up."

While last year, the "iPhone upstaged everything," according to Null, this year show goers can expect to see great things when it comes to entertainment.

"TVs [in 2008] will have bigger and brighter sets than ever before. We're going to see some really impressive displays," Null said. "LCDs will be thinner than ever."

Mitsubishi plans to introduce a laser-based TV, which will show more color than possible in LCD and plasma displays.

"That might be making some appearance at the show to show that there's something beyond LCD and plasma even if they're not ready for commercial release yet," Null said.

Another hot-ticket item for the 2007 holiday season ? Global Positioning Systems ? will also get improvements in 2008 if CES is any indicator, according to Null.

"This year we're going to see integrated real-time traffic updates, which sounds like a totally killer feature for GPS, as well as GPS-integrated cameras, which would be cool for people doing nature photography and outdoorsy stuff," Null said.

At CES, the competition between Blu-Ray and HDDVD will continue; both brands are slated to make announcements at the show, according to Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group.

"They'll likely have more pledges of studio support," Rubin told ABCNEWS.com. He expects to see "new models [of players] that are designed to achieve lower prices and bring this technology deeper in the mass market."

On the heels of the success of the Amazon Kindle, companies will introduce more portable products with wireless capability, Rubin said, as well as products that connect computers and televisions.

"A key focus will be the wireless high definition living room," Rubin said. "As more HD content becomes available both consumers and retailers want to reduce the cable clutter and have more flexibility in terms of installation."

The show's offerings will also extend beyond the home ? pushing technology into your car and into your wallet.

"Automotive will be the most exciting" of this year's offerings at CES, according to tech analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "We'll see next-generation entertainment systems for the car. An increasing amount will be connected to some type of satellite service."

Cell phone companies will be pushing "iPhone-killers," according to Enderle.

"The big battles will be around personal entertainment in cell phones," he said. "Cell phones will be on a war path. It surprises me that we can't point to a single phone as an iPhone killer. This will be their big push. You can also expect a lot of activity in multimedia phones."

In that vein, CES will showcase small, "pocketable" PCs that pack a lot of power, according to Enderle.

"We're going to explore how small these things can be," he said.

Despite the incessant chatter surrounding it, Yahoo Tech's Null maintains that this year's CES lacks the buzz of past shows.

"It won't knock your shoes off," he said, "but it will loosen the laces."