Jan. 3, 2011 at 7:53 AM ET
The week ahead is one that gadget hounds cherish, when the tech world descends on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show and all manner of TVs, video players, cameras, computers and phones are unveiled. Before the hard news starts to hit, let's look at a collection of the most tantalizing rumors, and their likelihood of actually coming true at the show itself.
The sure things
Motorola 10-inch tablet
Prior to unveiling its iPad-challenging 10-inch Android tablet, Motorola has done a fair bit of teasing. First, the tablet itself was briefly scoped at an AllThingsD mobile event in the hands of Android's real-life Gepetto, Andy Rubin. Then, Moto popped the above video, with its direct thumb-nose to Apple's "magical" darling. Attitude aside, it's good to see Motorola and Google raising the bar for Android tablets after the underdeveloped and over-priced Galaxy Tab.
LG 72-inch 3-D LCD
What's being billed as the largest LED-array 3-D TV on the market, LG's extra-big set isn't exactly a rumor, since LG's Korean HQ announced its impending arrival at CES. Still, key factors — such as its ship date and no-doubt wallet-exploding cost — are still wrapped tight.
Many will take CES 2011 as another chance to debate the usefulness of a 3-D TV set. I am one of the skeptics, but will readily admit that the benefit does go up with the size. HD Guru is reporting that there will be plenty of 32-inch 3-D sets coming this year. To put it bluntly, those are as pointless as this 72-incher is cool.
HTC LTE phone
Thursday's main event is Verizon's unveiling of its 4G phones — handsets that run on the newly launched LTE network. (When I tested it out, before there was any traffic on the network, mind you, the wireless broadband went toe-to-toe with my home cable broadband — and won.)
The first HTC might be the Incredible HD, the Mecha, it may even be the Thunderbolt, shown here from DroidLife. Rumored names have been wrong, especially where Verizon and stormy weather are concerned, but HTC is sure to show off an LTE phone at Verizon's showcase on Thursday, so this particular rumor makes total sense.
Samsung Galaxy Player
This is one of my favorites, the only product coming from the Android camp that really can compete against an iPod Touch. After a blog called Samsung Hub published some remarkably official looking images and specs, the product itself started appearing for pre-order in France and the UK. Its US destiny isn't totally certain, but since the Galaxy S smart phone line is selling so well over here, Samsung would be stupid not to make this an American reality.
Samsung Google TV
Google TV has had a rocky start, with products from Logitech and Sony getting panned by reviewers (including me), while TV networks blocked the systems from accessing "free" video on the Web. Reports from the NY Times and others say that Google itself has asked TV makers such as Toshiba, LG and Sharp to hold back on launching their own Google TV systems until the OS is updated to better appeal to critics and Hollywood studios alike. Still, in these reports, Samsung seems ready to roll out its own Google TV product, come what may. Is it 100 percent certain? No, but Samsung competes closely with Sony, and they might not want Sony to have this "exclusive" for too long, despite it being more albatross than pegasus.
Microsoft ARM-based tablets
Last year at CES, Microsoft showed off Windows 7 tablets, and a year passed where nothing of note came to market. Part of the reason is that Windows 7 demands too many resources to come in a thin system capable of competing with iPad and Android tablets. That's what makes this year's Microsoft tablet rumor interesting: A version of Windows that runs on the ARM-based processors used by the competition may actually produce halfway decent Windows touch tablets. It's a shame Microsoft seems to be ditching its Windows Phone 7 platform, which seems suitable for tablets right here and now. And the company would still need to woo developers to produce thousands of great third-party finger-friendly apps. Still, it would at least be a coherent strategy. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Vizio tablet — or tiny TV?
At the show, there are lots of tablets expected from the likes of Toshiba, Asus and Dell, traditional computer and phone makers who are either going to get their fill of Android, or try to swallow whatever Microsoft is pouring. But a tablet from Vizio marks a shift of the upstart TV vendor into the highly competitive and cliquey category of mobile electronics. What's more interesting is that the "leak" came from Vizio itself, showing the tablet in a Rose Bowl promo spotted by Engadget. It may amount to nothing, but it will be fun to see how Vizio ties a little screen in with their big-screen lineup.
I have no doubt that Sony Ericsson is working on a phone with PlayStation controls, but I am almost certain it won't show itself at CES. For starters, Sony Ericsson generally makes itself scarce at this trade show, as does the PlayStation division known as Sony Computer Entertainment. Sony Electronics — TVs, Blu-ray players, cameras and camcorders — will most likely not want to be upstaged something so clearly newsworthy. Besides, the latest report was that the phone, due by the spring, would be called Xperia Play. I am just hoping, praying even, that the marketing people stall the launch of this product until the company realizes it has one name and one name only: PlayStation Phone. Get it together, Sony!!
Here's another major gadget for 2011: The Palm WebOS tablet that was promised soon after HP bought Palm in early 2010. But despite Fox News' breathless exclusive on the subject, there's no real chance HP and Palm will be introducing a tablet at CES without first booking a press conference at the show. I wouldn't be the first to point out that no one has received any such invitations, so let's just assume these buns are still in the oven.
Not gonna happen
Verizon iPhone or iPad 2
Although Apple has unveiled something hot every January for over a decade, it has never participated in the Consumer Electronics Show. So while those of us on the tech beat are running around Vegas reporting on floor-mopping bots, phone-controlled smart balls and pocket-sized laser projectors, the world will still be wondering about the iPad 2 and that CDMA iPhone. Oh they will come, for certain, but when they do, it will be as if they were hurled from on high, shiny thunderbolts brought unexpectedly to earth by a sneering titan called Steve.
Wilson will be in Las Vegas all week covering the Consumer Electronics Show, culminating in a live one-hour streaming video show on Friday, co-hosted by XM Radio personality and tech commentator Mario Armstrong. For updates on all the tech news that's actually relevant to you, be sure to check technolog.msnbc.com. And don't forget to follow Wilson on Twitter, and shoot him any questions you might have about the massive barge of tech news currently headed our way.