Consumer Electronics Show 2008

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
What do you get when you combine elements of the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, and TV's "Get Smart"? Well, the Consumer Electronics Show or CES 2008, of course, which is now in it's 41st year. For me, it's number six. Yeah, there'll be big crowds all fighting for the first look at the most coveted devices to contain a microchip. (By the way, is a gadget more desirable if it's "cool" or if it's "hot"? Discuss.) Once the show starts Monday morning there's very little wiggle room anywhere; prepare to queue up for everything from food to taxis to bottled water to getting your hands on the flashiest doodad.

As many as 140,000 executives, engineers, programmers, PR people, reporters, and general high-tech industry types are expected to pass through the Las Vegas Convention Center through Thursday. (Closed to the public.) According to organizers it's the most floor space they've ever had -- about 1.85 million square feet -- but I've heard a couple rumors of moving the CES outside Vegas next year? Totally unverified rumors, mind you, and officials with the Consumer Electronics Association were coy and dismissive. But you never know. Hard to imagine which other city could sustain the sprawling event, other than maybe Atlanta, San Francisco or L.A. Hosting it in New York seems logistically impossible. Hmmmmm.

In any case, the trends are similar to last year: smarter, wireless, more efficient gadgets. Thin is REALLY in with TVs, including flat-panels from Sony that measure only a few millimeters thick with an eye-popping OLED display. Big is back, too, as the largest plasma weighs in at 150" from Panasonic. There's plenty of touchscreen around like LG's Voyager (likely thanks to the success of the iPhone -- no sign of Apple here with MacWorld happening post-CES). Most analysts here see a slow shift in the high-def DVD format as Blu-Ray surges and major companies like Warner Bros. pull out of HD-DVD. What a difference a year makes. And GPS is absolutely everywhere in watches like one from Garmin to nearly every cell phone. Plus, a major presence from companies who produce in-dash technology for vehicles, which is a rapidly growing market. There's also an SUV from GM that drives itself...but I'll have more on that later.

Check back for regular reports and video clips from behind the scenes at CES here on It's stuff you won't see anywhere else!