CES 2013 Kicks Off, But Is Giant Trade Show Losing Steam?

PHOTO: Attendees walk through the Samsung Electronics Co. booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 13, 2012.
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Next week the Las Vegas lights might seem a bit brighter as thousands of brand-new HDTVs, tablets, phones, cameras, cars -- you name it -- power up and descend upon Sin City.

The 46th annual Consumer Electronics Show – CES 2013 -- is upon us.

The show is massive, with more than 33,000 consumer electronics exhibitors, including Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic. Many of them will hold press conferences starting Sunday night, and on Tuesday, the show, which is put on by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), will open its doors to 150,000 attendees.

Read More: 5 Things to Expect at CES

But this also might be the year that demonstrates how much steam CES has been losing over time.

"CES is slowly losing relevance as the industry undergoes continuous change," Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told ABC News. "Smaller shows like Mobile World Congress are siphoning off large blocks of attendees and the players are changing too."

One major player has already been lost. Last year Microsoft announced that it was backing out of CES. While Microsoft gave the opening keynote presentation year after year, it won't even have a display booth this year. Qualcomm, which makes processors for mobile devices and other technologies, will kick off the show.

And it's not just Microsoft. While a mobile silicon company will ring in the show, many of the biggest mobile players, including Google, Motorola, HTC, RIM, Nokia, and others don't have events scheduled this year and are gearing up for their own events in January or at Mobile World Congress, a mobile trade show in Barcelona held at the end of February.

"The companies driving technology ecosystems -- Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft -- have not exhibited or no longer exhibit at the show. Rather, they own the audience at their own events," Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, says.

Apple, which has become the biggest player in the industry, has never taken part in CES -- at least not officially. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the 120,000-square-foot iLounge area, which is dedicated to Apple product accessories -- cases, docks, etc. -- is bigger than most trade shows in America.

But while the buzz and the anticipation of big announcements has been low this year, CEA President and CEO Gary Shaprio says it's going to be a very big year. And you get the feeling he isn't just saying that to tout his own show.

"I think there will be more announcements at this show than any year previously," Shapiro told ABC News. "Exhibitors and major companies are making requests of us that have been unprecedented." Shapiro said he couldn't divulge what those announcements might be, but said major companies are planning to go big.

Sony similarly wouldn't divulge its CES secrets, but the company has one of the biggest booths on the floor and still believes the trade show is a great place to demo its future wares.

"We still believe strongly in the power of CES and the gathering of all the industry people in one place to debut the most important new products and services for the coming year," Sony's Rob Manfredo told ABC News.

CES 2013: Giant Tech Trade Show? Or Fading?

But even if the Samsungs, Sonys, Toshibas and Panasonics of the world don't release any jaw-dropping products, the show has become a ground for future technologies and innovation. "Most of the advancements that we see at CES seem to be more in terms of standards and new technologies that multiple companies get behind, particularly in the home audio-visual space -- Blu-ray, 3-D, Smart TV, OLED, UltraHD, higher-speed Wi-Fi," Rubin said.

Many predict this year's show will be a big one for even higher-resolution HDTVs (Ultra HDTVs), future car technology, digital health and wellness tools, and home automation.

But whether or not the show ultimately cedes more and more ground to other events and company-sepcific gatherings, there will still be thousands descending on Las Vegas next week looking for a glimpse of the future. In the words of the CEA's Shapiro, "I'm pretty pumped."

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