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IBM Returning to CES Trade Show After 10-Year Absence

It has been a decade since IBM showed up at the Consumer Electronics Show.

That 10-year absence will come to an end in a few weeks, after Big Blue opens its booth on the showroom floor at the 2007 CES show in Las Vegas.

Since last showing up at the CES in 1997, a lot has changed, and IBM (IBM) is now looking to prove that it's "cool" enough to compete with the consumer offering coming in from other industry heavyweights, such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Dell (DELL), Intel (INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

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Specifically, IBM will demonstrate how its components, technology and research have been used to create a number of highly regarded consumer electronics.

From its perch at the show, IBM plans to show how its technologies, such as Power Architecture, Cell Broadband Engine and Secure Blue, have played in developing consumer-oriented cell phones, game systems and other products.

IBM wants the world to know that it is a force that has been making multibillion dollars in this space working with big-name partners like Sony (SNE), Toshiba, Microsoft (MSFT) and Nintendo.

All these technologies fall under IBM's Technology Collaboration Solutions organization, which formed earlier this year as an umbrella division that now houses IBM's microelectronics, OEM component sales, telecommunications and other technologies under one roof.

"The biggest part of this message is that IBM is here to continue to drive growth with our partners," said Norman Liang, business development executive for the consumer electronics/media and entertainment division of IBM's Technology Collaboration Solutions.

Liang added that the Armonk, N.Y., company has been "quietly" assisting companies, both enterprise companies like Microsoft as well as SMBs (small and midsize businesses), in developing these technologies.

Analysts agree that IBM is looking to re-establish its brand with consumers.

Since IBM sold its ThinkPad brand to Lenovo in 2004 and then watched as Apple Computer (AAPL) started offering Intel-based Macintoshes in addition to PowerPC-based machines earlier in 2006, the company has lost its place within the consumer market, said Toni Duboise, a senior analyst at Current Analysis, based in La Jolla, Calif.

"This show is a way for IBM to re-emerge, and the possible payoff is renewed brand recognition," Duboise said. "It is evident that there is a gray line between consumer electronics and the computer and IT worlds. It makes a lot of sense for them to be there."

While the IBM name remains strong within the IT world, its lack of prominent name recognition within consumer electronics has hurt the company with more mainstream and consumer buyers.

Also, in a competitive world where one of IBM's core businesses — services — is being challenged by the likes of HP and Dell, company executives may feel the need to keep the Big Blue name fresh in the minds of both its partners and consumers.

"IBM is out of the PC business now," Duboise said. "For now, they are selling components and services, and this is an important move for them."

In looking to re-brand itself as both an IT and consumer electronics innovator, IBM will be showing off its Power Architecture, which is used in the three most popular video game systems: Microsoft's Xbox 360, the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.

In an agreement with Circuit City (CC), IBM will work to create a "virtual living room" to help customers pick and chose the right television and speakers.

Earlier this year, IBM announced that it would invest $10 million in technologies that help enable virtual worlds like Second Life from Linden Labs in San Francisco.

IBM will also show off several collaborative projects with companies that have used its technology.

One will show off a karaoke machine that used the same technology used in ThinkPad PCs, while another will show off an effort with St. Jude Medical (STJ) on a portable device that programs implantable cardioverter defibrillators and pacemakers.

Although IBM has no major announcements or other partnerships to announce, Liang said the company will hit the showroom floor with the intent to show that the innovations and technologies that made IBM a force in the enterprise have a place within the consumer market.

"What once went into IT has really become part of today's consumer electronics products," Liang said.

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