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What to expect at CES 2013

Jan. 4, 2010: People walk inside the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Apple won’t be there. Nor will Google. And for the first time in many years, Microsoft won’t have its own booth. But the International Consumer Electronics Show (Jan. 8 - Jan. 11), one of the largest and longest running tech trade shows around, is still expecting one of its biggest years ever.

Despite a couple tepid years following the recession, CES is back to setting records. The Las Vegas show remains the ultimate platform for thousands of companies to show off their latest wares with aplomb with the arrival of the new year.

CES 2013 will be the biggest CES ever with over 3,000 exhibits showing off 20,000 new products across 1.87 million square feet of floor space, the CEA (the Consumer Electronics Association, the show’s governing body) announced last month. Here’s what we can expect from what is still one of the greatest tech trade shows on Earth.

The rise of the startups
Microsoft isn’t the only juggernaut bowing out of the gadget extravaganza. Nokia, Dell and HP are all skipping this year’s CES along with perennial no-shows like Google, Amazon and Apple. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a show that’s traditionally been dominated by heavyweights like Intel and Sony.

Hardware is the new software and, as The Wall Street Journal reported in August, a new generation of Silicon Valley start-ups are turning their back on the web and actually making stuff now. In the age of Kickstarter, expect big ideas from bit part players (like the Pebble smartwatch, which raised $10 million). From an innovation perspective, this can only be a good thing.

Samsung’s big party
This year could be all about Samsung, which will be one of the biggest players strutting its stuff. The Korean conglomerate has rapidly taken up the mantle of “the other Apple” with an endless array of smartphone and tablet devices, including the blockbuster “iPhone killer” the Galaxy SIII (there are rumors Samsung may even unveil the SIV). Samsung has a lot in store this year, including “unprecedented” smart TVs (check out the teaser) and even a state-of-the-art bendable phone display.

The ghost of Microsoft
Officially, Microsoft is done with CES, but the company will be there in spirit thanks to the flop that is Windows 8. This will be another chance for Ballmer and co. to push their controversial operating system through a plethora of newly imagined hybrid touchscreen devices. Lenovo, Asus and others will be trying desperately to catch our attention with "post-pc" devices that swivel, twist and fold. 

Smarter TVs, smarter TV subscriptions
Another year at CES means another year of bigger, thinner, better TVs. If last year was about 3D, this year is all 4K and OLED, which means higher resolutions, sleeker frames and more vibrant colors. And pricier sets. Much pricier sets.

The flipside of that is content for our big expensive screens. Intel is introducing its own set-top box and TV service in an effort to get its chips into our living rooms (after missing the boat on getting their chips into our pockets), according to Techcrunch. The proposed service would theoretically allow consumers to pick what channels they’d like to subscribe to versus paying $80 for 200 channels you never watch -- which sounds great, but we’ll believe it when we see it.

The “Internet of things”
Chips are getting smaller, networks faster (slowly but surely at least) and everyone’s got a smartphone -- which means smarter, well, everything. Indeed, after many false starts, the “smart home” may have finally arrived with Internet-connected appliances, like the Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo. You know, “smart” lightbulbs (and of course, there's an app for that).

Gesture control
It’s about time we started moving away from the mouse, home row keys and perpetually misplaced remote controls. With the advent of technologies like facial recognition, eye-tracking, voice recognition and gesture control, expect brand new ways to communicate with your machines.

Phones with big screens
Bigger isn’t necessarily better but trust us, it’s inevitable. Phones with even bigger screens are on the way. We’re talking 5 inch screen, or even 5 and a half inchers. Just don’t call it a phablet.

Connected cars
Over 100,000 square feet of show floor space will be filled just by automakers. Companies like Ford, Audi and Kia will all be hawking cars that seamlessly integrate with your cloud.

The continued slow death of the point-and-shoot
The industry response to Android phones with incredible built-in cameras? Cameras with built-in Android. Ugh.