12/12/2012 06:53 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

Techies Revved Up for Annual CES Revelations

Is there anything more fun than gathering with 150,000 of your closest friends and colleagues to see the latest and greatest that technology has to offer?

Probably, but be that as it may, the technological faithful will make their annual pilgrimage to CE's Mecca, Las Vegas, starting on Jan. 8 for the opening of the 2013 International CES.

While this year's four-day event promises more of what most attendees love -- TVs with screens the sizes of football fields, high-end audio products that only Powerball winners can afford, and enough mobile devices to keep almost any teenager happy -- the playbill is fleshed out with some non-traditional fair.

Apps and Cloud services will play a huge role. Apps have been on the show's periphery for the last few years, but this time around apps will be associated with most of the product launches.

Cloud services, although widely and unknowingly used by most people, are still a mystery to most. In fact, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), producer of International CES, has found that many consumers are either entirely unaware that the Cloud exists, or, if they are aware, they are scared to death of it for various reasons. The 2013 show hopes to begin allaying those fears through a series of workshops.

One of the apps will be unveiled by the Huffington Post's own Arianna Huffington at the show's Digital Health Summit. Called GPS For The Soul, the iPhone app is designed to help people relieve stress via a mix of soothing songs, photos, sayings and meditative techniques.

Digital health and fitness products are also gaining more ground, with 215 exhibitors claiming 27,000 square feet of floor space. This category is red hot: A CEA study found 37 percent of those surveyed intended to buy some type of fitness technology in the coming year.

The auto industry is also expanding its presence at the show. Cars have always played a huge role at CES, but mainly to show off car audio products. For decades the North Hall has played host to the deep thumping of subwoofers as the various audio companies vie for attendees' attention, but now the manufacturers themselves are showing up.

The impetus is the growth of web- and networking-based products being added to the average car. Bluetooth, Ford's Sync technology, GPS, cellular and mobile TV are all vital extra features in today's car, and so that industry has left Detroit for Vegas.

On the hardware side, tablets (not unexpectedly) and smartphones will be two of the bigger draws. This will hold true even though Apple does not exhibit at the show. So while the iPad and iPhone will be absent from the Las Vegas Convention Center, hundreds of companies will be on hand to roll out Apple accessories and companions.

4K TVs are set to make a relatively big splash. This new TV category sports screens capable of showing just over 8 million pixels, or about four times that of a 1080p HD TV.

Ultrabooks are one product with a somewhat lower profile this year. These very thin, light and powerful laptops were the darling of the show last year, but somewhat tepid sales during the last 12 months have pushed them into the background.

The Ultrabook, developed by Intel, could still gain a bit of the spotlight because most computer makers have introduced convertible tablet/Ultrabooks. As the name suggests, these can be used as a laptop, or the screen can be adjusted in such a way that it can be operated as a tablet.

The other major change, and possibly the most visible, is Microsoft's absence.

The software giant has been a fixture at CES since the mid-90s, both on the floor and as the headlining act.

Until his retirement a few years ago, company founder Bill Gates gave the pre-show keynote address, the most popular event of the show. People stood in line for half a day to get a seat and hear what Bill had to say. After his retirement, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took over the duty to ever-dwindling crowds, until Microsoft abandoned CES after last year's show.

In 2013 Dr. Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, has taken the slot.

Qualcomm? Really? It makes chips -- not fun stuff that consumers love to snap up.

Jacobs' appearance is a direct indicator of what is important to the industry, and in a true sense he is carrying on Gates' legacy. In the same way Microsoft produces the operating system that is the backbone of the computing industry, Qualcomm makes Snapdragon processors. These are widely used in tablets and smartphones, which will be the stars of this year's show.

So the more things changed, the more they will stay the same.

This blog is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post on the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013), the behemoth consumer-electronics trade show held annually in Las Vegas. To read other pieces in the series, click here. What are your thoughts on CES? We invite you to submit pieces of 500-850 words -- for possible publication in The Huffington Post -- to