An Inside Look At Electronics Show

Intel banners greet guests at the baggage carousel at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Jan. 3, 2006. The 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show takes place in the city Jan. 5-8.
CBS/Larry Magid
CBS News tech analyst Larry Magid reports from Las Vegas on this year's Consumer Electronics Show.
The giant Consumer Electronics Show doesn't officially get under way until Thursday, but the streets of Las Vegas are already crowded with vendors and press getting an early start for the show. While the public doesn't get in until Thursday, Wednesday is "Press Day" so those of us in the media get a chance to kick some tires before the crowds get really heavy.

Once the show is under way, more than 2,500 exhibitors are expected to occupy more than 1.5 million feet of exhibit space at the Las Vegas Convention Center and – for the first time also at the nearby Sands Exposition Center and the Venetian Hotel. More than 130,000 people are expected to attend.

One can never say sure what will be announced at this show. Most companies keep their products under pretty tight wraps until the final moment. What we do know already, however, is that this will be a year of big and little video and what some call "digital convergence."

CBS News technology consultant Larry Magid talks with Jim Barry, the spokesperson for the Consumer Electronics Association, about the upcoming CES show in Las Vegas.

As far as video is concerned the big theme this year will be "size matters" on both ends of the spectrum. Not that you and I will actually put it on our living room, but Samsung will be showing what it's billing the "world's largest LCD TV." At 82 inches (diagonally), I'm sure they're right. What's interesting about this big boy is that it's said to be LCD (liquid crystal display) as opposed to plasma. Companies typically use plasma for really large form factor while using the more expensive LCD displays for smaller screens, typically 40 inches or below. Of course, Samsung has also developed a 102 plasma display for those of us with really really big living rooms and budgets to match.

While Samsung, LG and other companies love to dazzle CES attendees with amazingly large sets, the sweet spot in the market is clearly sets priced under $4,000 which means plasma in the 51 to 61 inch range and LCDs sized 40 inches or lower.

But big isn't the only story. Small screens are also expected to take center stage. Apple made a big hit when it introduced its "video iPod" a few months ago. Truth is, Apple wasn't the first to issue a digital music player that can also play video but it helped legitimize the category. This will embolden vendors like Zvue and iRiver, who had early handheld "media" players with video to come back a bit stronger. They're getting a shot in the arm from Starz Entertainment Group and Microsoft.

Starz, which has a movie channel for cable and satellite viewers plans to launch its Vongo service to allow users of portable players to watch full length movies using software provided by Microsoft.

You can also expect small video players from some of the larger consumer electronics vendors.