This is what the hallway looked like during last year's exposition.  They're expecting even more attendees this year.
By Columnist
updated 1/6/2005 7:19:54 PM ET 2005-01-07T00:19:54

It’s that time again -- time for people from all facets and corners of the electronics business to come together for the cozy little trade show now known simply as CES. (Its full name is the 2005 International Consumer Electronics Show.)

Hundreds of thousands of buyers, sellers, executives and even people like me (with press credentials hanging from their necks) will descend upon Las Vegas this week for this year’s edition of the world’s largest annual consumer technology exhibition.

Hotels have raised their prices, the really good restaurants are almost completely booked and try to get a ticket for one of the hot shows in town. Just try!

New this year is a monorail-type tram service that connects some of the hotels on the Vegas strip to the convention center. That should cut down the human and vehicular gridlock everywhere in the city -- now if they could only do something about the gridlock on the floor.

The map is usually easier to navigate than the show floor.

Thousands of exhibits will be spread out over acres of floors in the Las Vegas Convention Center, numerous hotels and basically anywhere else someone can park a stretch limo, Hummer or rickshaw.  What used to be the focus of CES for years, the high-end audio industry, now is neatly tucked away in a motel far from the Convention Center hustle and bustle. More than 60 trade organizations alone will be represented at the show, groups such as the 1394 Trade Association, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, the Semiconductor Industry Association and the Video Electronics Standards Association, to name just a few.

Really big big-shots will be making lots of important speeches.  Microsoft’s Bill Gates always makes the pre-show keynote on Wednesday night even though the show officially begins Thursday and runs through Sunday. Intel’s Craig Barrett does the honors on Thursday morning and Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard is Friday morning’s speaker.  Add talks from Motorola’s Ed Zander, Judy McGrath from MTV Networks, Mike Ramsey from TiVo and Texas Instruments’ Rich Templeton and you begin to understand the breadth and width of this gathering.

There are hundreds of conference sessions where industry experts talk about and answer questions from audiences about the newest, latest and greatest items that will be released in the coming year. In addition to my reports during the conference, I’ll be writing about a lot of those devices in future columns.

And don’t forget the celebrities who’ll be attending: Jackie Chan, Tom Arnold, Robert Goulet, Ed McMahon and Cheap Trick, to name a few in no particular order. Gates often pulls a few celebrities up on stage with him as well. Then there's the B-list: people such as Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter(original MTV V-jays), Bill Walton plus the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

On your marks. Ready. Go.

There are also many special events planned. My favorite is the International CES 5K Run/Walk planned for Saturday morning.  Participants are asked to put down their PDAs, throw on their best sneakers and compete in this grueling 5K race (or one mile walk) to support the future of technology education. Everyone is expected to meet at 8 a.m. behind the Forum Shops in Caesar's Palace. CES boasts that nearly 500 people (out of something like 200,000 attendees) participated last year.

As for the show itself — I can’t wait.  I expect we’ll learn about hundreds of new and revolutionary flat-screen TVs, tiny surround-sound home theater systems, super-duper mega-pixel cellular phones, computers and networks that control nearly everything you can think of and a few new handheld/portable devices that can do anything you want them to.

And I’m sure there’ll also be a bunch of items that will truly be revolutionary in some way.  Expect to read about all about them later this week.

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