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Last year the buzz was all about 3D TV. This year the idiot box is getting smart. LG an others are rolling out sleek sets that connect seamlessly to the net. - 

by Jaclyn Giovis
UPDATE: Thursday, January 5, 2010

The International Consumer Electronics Show is a gadget lover's paradise minus one: Apple.

The iPad maker infamously skips this annual Las Vegas party, which officially kicked off Thursday to huge crowds of industry executives, journalists and techies. More than 126,000 people are expected to attend the world's largest consumer technology conference, hosted by the Consumer Electronics Association.

Even in its absence, Apple is an A-list industry celebrity whose trendsetting ways heavily influences the four-day tradeshow. (Lest we forget the 2007 moment when Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone at a rival convention?) Still, Apple used the focus on new consumer gadgets to unveil its new Mac app store, which sell applications for your laptop or desktop computer just like it does for the iPad and iPhone.

This year, the show stoppers at CES are expected to be in the tablet category, as companies such as Motorola Inc., Lenovo and Toshiba Corp. vie for a piece of a growing market and jockey for the limelight. The tablet market is expected to surge to more than 50 million units in 2011.

The company to beat is Apple, of course, who reigns as the tablet market leader. And with buzz and excitement stirring around Apple's launch of the iPad 2 this year, early tradeshow goers already are flooding cyber space with details and sightings of an iPad 2 case prototype (SEE PHOTOS).

Internet TV catches up
Another trend playing out at CES this year is the growth of Internet TV and technology products to support it. Internet TV allows consumers to choose the program they want to watch from an archive of programs or from a channel directory.

TVs and Blu-ray players that stream content from the Internet and make it easy for consumers to access content from their remote control are expected to be all the rage this year. Netflix on Tuesday announced that remote controls for certain televisions will soon come equipped with a big red button - as in the big red Netflix logo - that will take you directly to their video streaming service.

Last year, CES revolved around Android products and apps to tablets, eReaders, netbooks and smartphones. 3D TVs were trotted out and promised as a top seller, but sales haven't quite measured up to expectations.

It's often hard to guess which products will live or die after CES. But CES promoters say this: this tradeshow promises to be bigger and better than the one last year.

Here's a snapshot of last year's CES:
- 126,641 industry professionals in attendance, a 12 percent increase from 2009.
- 2,500 global companies were represented, including a record 330 first time exhibitors.
- Companies unveiled about 20,000 new products.
- Exhibits spanned across 1.4 million net square feet of space.
- International attendees from 136 countries helped increase global attendance by more than 8 percent over 2009.
- The top 10 countries represented were: Canada, Korea, China, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom, Taiwan, France, Brazil and Germany.
- CES is the world's largest consumer technology tradeshow and North America's largest annual tradeshow of any kind.