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Behind the Scenes: Gadgets outshine Vegas glitter

By Renay San Miguel
CNN
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In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Feel that sudden disturbance in the Force, Obi-Wan? That gravitational pull on the tectonic plates?

That's the center of the digital universe making its annual move to Las Vegas, Nevada.

The 40th International Consumer Electronics Show begins on Monday, and rest assured that what happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas. You will soon be hearing about the latest in high-definition televisions, MP3 players, digital cameras, camcorders, cell phones and next-generation tech products of all kinds. Media and marketing professionals will turn Sin City into Spin City, feeding the gadget addictions of a wired -- and wireless -- America. (Watch how you can watch live TV on your cell phone Video)

And I'll be there in the middle of a cavernous and crowded Las Vegas Convention Center, loving every minute of it.

It's not just the 2,700 companies showing off their high-tech wares to 130,000-plus attendees that makes this a special week for me. It's also watching the multimillion-dollar budget battle between technology giants like Sony, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Canon. It's seeing the desperation from smaller start-ups who absolutely have to have a glowing review or 30 seconds on a national television newscast to attract more funding. It's the opportunity to quiz Bill Gates or Michael Dell about "the Next Big Thing."

It's always fun to see celebrities and star athletes mingle with the retail chain buyers and media types. It's even more giggle-inducing to hear those celebrities and athletes struggle to remember the bullet points provided by public relations staffers for the companies that are paying them to endorse their products.

And of course, it's the chance to play with the gadgets that, if you're a good boy or girl, will be under your tree next holiday season. And chances are it will make obsolete the had-to-have gadget you unwrapped just two weeks ago.

Our CNN team will be doing our best to separate the truly innovative wheat from the digital chaff in our coverage of the electronics show next week. There are always a few, "What were they thinking?" products. They are more than balanced out by jaw-dropping, high-coolness-quotient gadgets that always make me consider larceny for more than a few seconds. These would include the Slingbox, which essentially turns your PC into a remote-control Tivo; the Pioneer Inno pocket satellite radio receiver; a portable planetarium; and all manner of videogaming gear seen at previous shows.

What to expect this year? More on the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD battle that launched during last year's electronics show. Also a show-opening keynote speech from Gates that should include live demonstrations of Vista, Microsoft's latest version of its Windows operating system that will be available for consumers later this month. Even bigger high-definition flat screen TV's (Samsung is rumored to have a 108-inch model.) Cell phones that continue to blur the line between PDAs/cameras/e-mail and text message devices.

Last year the buzz at the show involved all the Internet CEO's crashing the consumer electronics party; Google and Yahoo! executives gave keynote speeches. This year, there's a lot of talk about the traditional media leaders -- Disney's Bob Iger, CBS' Les Moonves -- on the agenda. It makes sense, when you consider both men spent most of last year making deals to get their movies and TV shows online via Apple's iTunes and their own Web sites. We should get a status report on how those efforts are going.

Speaking of Apple, this year the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld fall on the same week.

Steve Jobs will attempt to steal some thunder all the way from San Francisco, California, and make no mistake, all the tech insiders in Vegas will be checking their Blackberrys to see if Jobs will take the wraps off of an iPod phone. For my part, it's Apple's iTV set-top box that shows the most promise. It will wirelessly -- and Apple hopes, easily -- move all that Internet video, including legally downloaded movies and TV shows, from your PC or Mac to your TV.

I'll be trying to keep my head above the digital tide for you via reports on CNN, Headline News and CNN Pipeline. And like a true multitasking, 21st-century journalist, I'll also be blogging, podcasting and shooting digital photos of the products and proceedings.

Please tune in/log on/download. I'll be there, unless I'm waiting in a taxi line somewhere on the Strip.



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Headline News anchor Renay San Miguel will be reporting from the Consumer Electronics Show.

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