The Buzz at CES: Apple Tablets, 3-D TVs and Skype TVs, Too

What happens in Vegas can't just stay in Vegas. At least that's what Apple's (AAPL) competitors will be hoping at the 2010 edition of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show.Even a faint murmur about a new Apple product usually sends the tech world into a tizzy, and this time, the chatter is about a new tablet computer, on the lines of a giant iPod Touch, which is rumored to be debuting at the end of this month. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company hasn't made any official announcements about the product, thought to be called the iSlate. Such a device could help Apple gain market share from e-reader manufacturers like (AMZN) while giving it a new arena in which to compete with netbook computer manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Acer (ACEIF).

%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Buzz notwithstanding, Apple won't actually be in Las Vegas -- it has preferred to stay away from CES since the late '90s. But its products will remain a dominant theme. For example, Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Balmer is set to unveil a tablet-type computer during his keynote address, according to The New York Times, and Apple's shadow will loom large.

Apple shares soared to a record $214.38 on Tuesday on the Nasdaq. They more than doubled last year, ending a decade in which the stock climbed by more than 700%, lifted by the phenomenal successes of the iPod and iPhone. And Macintosh computers, which account for just about 4% of the PC market share, continue to excite.

3-D Glasses in the Family Room?

There's plenty more to watch out for at the CES. The sensational response to 3-D sci-fi epic Avatar has revived talk about 3-D TV screens. The makers of Blu-ray technology have finalized plans for high-definition discs that will play 3-D movies, but few are yet clear about what the TVs will look like, or whether viewers will take to wearing special glasses at home.

The other TV-related technology generating CES buzz surrounds Skype, the online service that allows people to make free phone and video calls. On Tuesday, the company announced partnerships with LG Electronics (LGLD) and Panasonic (PC) to make Skype-enabled TVs, designed to simplify the process of using your TV for video chat -- an advance that could usher in a new era for video communication.

The theme of this year's CES could be the narrowing of the gap between smartphones, netbooks and media devices. There will be no shortage of gadgets on display, and Google's Nexus One has already made a minor splash. But there's always the excitement and anticipation as the industry watches to see which device will be the one to steal the show. Don't rule out an underdog. After all, 2009 was the year of the Palm Pre.
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