Selling A Contraption… And A Concept

Today was the day gadget freaks have been waiting for: the day all the latest TV's and cell-phones and computers went on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It turns out the Next Big Thing isn't a thing at all — it's an idea, reports CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes.

In a town where odds are everything, electronics makers are placing a huge bet that this year consumers will spend big on a big concept — something they call "convergence."

What is convergence?

"This is the very first IPTV, DVR in HD," says Michael Markman of Diego Software.

In English, that's using your cable TV box to access your computer, watch your TV or a movie, and look at your digital pictures — all with your remote control and all on the same screen.

Click here to read Sandra Hughes' Reporter's Notebook from the CES.

It could be a couch potato's dream come true and here at the Consumer Electronics Show, there's a battle brewing over who takes control of the remote that controls every aspect of your electronic life.

In one corner, heavyweight Microsoft, which wants to put software in a personal computer to satisfy all your entertainment needs.

"Consumers are getting more and more connected, they're getting richer experiences and software is really at the center of that," says Bill Gates.

In the other corner, home electronics companies like Sony.

"The PlayStation portable is the ultimate in personal entertainment," said Sony CEO, Howard Stringer.

But is the consumer really yearning for this connectivity?

"Good question. Does the consumer want this stuff or are we inventing a need, trying to force the solution on them?" asks Brian Cooley, editor at large

At Intel, they think the solution just might be making the PC pretty enough for your living room.

Merlin Kister, Intel marketing manager, says it does not look like a computer. "It should look like something you put in your living room like a DVD player or VCR," he says.

But beauty is only skin deep when you're mired in wires.

"It's too complicated," says CBS News tech consultant Larry Magid. "It works but getting it to work you practically have to go to MIT."

That could mean one more year where a lot of what's shown off in Vegas… stays in Vegas.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for