It's that time of year again, when gearheads and gadget hounds start salivating.
The world's largest technology trade show, the annual Consumer Electronics Show, is only a week away, and with it comes chatter of tech trends expected to take off in 2010.
Hundreds of tech companies -- from major players to the minor leaguers -- will showcase their wares at CES next week. And more will flood the market with gadgets galore in the following months. But the themes of the year are already taking shape.
One of the big buzz words? Convergence.
"A big over-arching theme ... is the idea that more and more things are being connected," said Charles Golvin, a senior analyst with Forrester Research.
He acknowledged that this trend is not new, but emphasized that it's gaining traction. We might already have connectivity in the living room, with gaming consoles and video players that link up with the Internet. But, he said, that capability is swiftly moving into cars and on to all kinds of handheld devices.
One of the gadget world's most hotly anticipated hyper-connected devices is a multimedia tablet expected to come from Apple. For the past few months, tech blogs have devoted pages to an iPhone-on-steroids-like device that would let users watch video, surf the Web and comfortably read text.
Apple has yet to confirm the existence of the device, rumored to be named iSlate or iGuide, but technophiles speculate that Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself could tease the tablet at a company event as early as late January.
But even if Apple doesn't unveil a tablet anytime soon, analysts and industry watchers say others will.
Earlier this month, tech blog Slash Gear leaked specs for a multimedia tablet it expects product development firm Notion Ink to launch at CES. According to Slash Gear, the device (rumored to be named Adam) measures 6.3 x 9.8 x 0.6 inches and weighs in at 1.7 lbs.
The screen can be viewed indoors like a color LCD, or brought outside (like Amazon's Kindle e-book reader) with a grayscale mode. Other manufacturers, such as Dell and Lenovo, are also rumored to have tablets up their sleeves.
Rob Enderle, an independent technology consultant, said both Adam and the mysterious Apple tablet are designed to be convergence devices.
"Take a bunch of things -- the iPod, portable DVD players and an operating system -- and ram them together into one device," he said.
But he said convergence will come in varying shapes and sizes.
The e-book reader was a success story of 2009, but Enderle expects growth in the category to continue in 2010.
"Clearly e-books are one of the major trends we carry into the new year," he said.
Sony's Reader and Amazon's Kindle were the first to attract consumers, but Barnes & Noble, which launched the Nook this year, is expected to launch another in 2010, Enderle said.
Earlier this month, publishing company Hearst unveiled its own e-reader, Skiff, which will drop next year and distribute mostly newspaper and magazine articles.
Qualcomm is also expected to enter the market with an e-reader equipped to play color video.
And, of course, Google is expected to make a splash in 2010.
For weeks, tech blogs have been leaking details about what they believe will be the tech giant's newest phone -- the Nexus One.