January 6, 2008 // 1:46 am
- More than 140,000 people are expected in Las Vegas for the start of the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday.
The latest in gadgets and home electronics will be on display, as technology firms hope to ride out a global economic slowdown.
"The industry has to brace itself," admitted Gary Shapiro, president of the US Consumer Electronics Association.
Microsoft boss Bill Gates opens the show with a speech on Sunday, which will focus on social technologies.
"My feeling is that the US is in for tough times," said Mr Shapiro.
But he said that economic slowdown and the widespread credit crunch could see people investing more in their homes, rather than buying new property.
"If we were [an] industry selling boats or travel, I'd be concerned. In terms of consumer electronics the industry is fairly well positioned."
He said the weak dollar had helped the US market, with many "technology tourists" visiting the country to buy electronics.
"People are coming to the US because it is such a bargain."
CES is the focus point for many technologies due to hit shops in the coming 12 months, such as OLED TVs, offering brighter, thinner displays, and a plethora of digital living room technologies, such as set-top boxes and digital storage devices.
The show will also be used as a promotion tool for competing technologies such as Blu-ray and HD-DVD, and wireless technologies like Bluetooth and Wireless USB.
Mr Shaprio said: "CES is truly a convergence show. We have the devices, the pipes to those devices, and the content and services.
"Calling it the Consumer Electronics Show is probably a misnomer. It should be called the Converging Electronics Show, or Consumer Entertainment Show."
Last year the event was overshadowed by an Apple event in San Francisco, at which Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone.
"It was a little bit challenging for us," said Mr Shapiro. "We handled it and survived."
The show remains a business event, not just for promotion but also for buyers and distributors.
Jeremy Fennell, international buying director for PC World, said: "We'll be looking at the further development of the convergence between the consumer electronics and the IT industries.
"We're looking for products that will help people share information both inside and outside the home."
He said the key questions that he hoped CES would answer would be about convergence.
"We want to know: is it going to be one box or more boxes? Will we see data streaming through multiple PCs - or one digital server sending content to other devices through the home."
He added: "What I need is simple devices that allow simple movement of my content around the home.
"It is a show where anyone with an idea can sell it to the world," said Mr Shapiro.
"Anyone with an idea, with a small investment of a few thousand dollars can get a booth; and investors, distributors, buyers and retailers from all over the world can help them get exposure.
"Every big company starts small. Even Microsoft started out as a tiny company at a trade show."