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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 09:47 GMT
Vegas hosts the tech of tomorrow

By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor in Las Vegas

Watching a big TV
Digital entertainment is the buzzword this year
The hottest gadgets for the digital generation are on show in Las Vegas.

More than 110,000 people are expected at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week to check out the latest from the technology industry.

Jostling for space at the trade show are huge digital TV displays, tiny MP3 players and high-spec digital cameras.

This year's show has a greater focus on digital entertainment, with giants like Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard looking to sell to the couch potato.

The annual convention is considered to be the main showcase for the latest and greatest in consumer electronics that will be hitting the shops in the coming months and beyond.

When and where

A major theme of this year's CES will be gadgets that let you manage your libraries of digital music, video and photos.

On display will be home networking products, designed to make it easier to share media across the computer, TV and stereo.

The aim is to allow people to enjoy their digital content anywhere in the home, regardless of whether it is on a computer, a CD or on the internet.

Some of the best gadgets on display at CES 2004

"Everything will be connected, either wirelessly or by ethernet," said Jeff Joseph, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association which organises the show.

"The vision is to get content and do what you want with it, taking it where you want, watching it when you want and where you want," he told BBC News Online.

So far, the dream of seamlessly accessing music or video anywhere in the home has been hampered by various digital rights management technologies designed to prevent piracy.

"We continue to try to strike the right balance between protecting copyright and fighting piracy, and allowing consumers to do what they have always done with their content, such as sharing it from room to room or on different devices," said Mr Joseph.

Computing muscle

Over the past few years, the heavyweights of the computing industry have raised their profile at the Consumer Electronic Show.

Microsoft is planning a major presence, with Bill Gates kicking off events with a keynote speech on the eve of the show.

Runs from 8-11 January
2,300 exhibitors from 110 countries
110,000 visitors
1.3 million square feet of floor space
100,000 yards of carpet laid on the show floor
Mr Gates is expected to focus on the software giant's move into the consumer market.

This includes an announcement about the long-awaited wrist watches which use Microsoft technology to display weather reports, news and sport.

Mr Gates is also due to give details about a line of portable devices to compete with Apple's iPod.

Called Portable Media Centers, the gadgets will store and play video, music and photos and they are expected to go on sale by the end of this year.

Other computing giants are also making their presence felt. Both Dell and Hewlett-Packard have invested heavily in consumer technology and will be showing off their latest televisions, music players and handheld devices.

CES, which runs from 8 to 11 January, will be surrounded by a number of smaller events, including a conference on the use of technology for homeland security.

Las Vegas is also playing host to the Cyber X Games, a computer gaming tournament sponsored by Microsoft and chipmakers ATI and AMD.

Lucrative cash prizes of a total of $600,000 are on offer and the event is expected to attract more than 3,000 gamers.

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