It's that time of the year again - in a few days' time, the world's biggest and baddest technology event, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), will hit Las Vegas like a runaway Tesla. Taking place 7-10 January, CES 2014 looks set to be as exciting as ever, featuring a slew of high-profile keynotes and major product announcements, plus the requisite token celebrity appearances and annual rekindling of the 'booth babe' debate.
With nerds from all over the world readying themselves to flock to Sin City for some hardcore gadget ogling, we've had a think about what we're most looking forward at this year's show. Soon, we'll be jetting Stateside to cover the event firsthand, and you can find all the build up, news, and analysis from Las Vegas in our dedicated CES 2014 hub. In the meantime, get yourself in the mood with our preview.
Tech Titans keynote series
As well as providing us with the opportunity to fondle new tech toys, CES is also a time for the electronics world to get together and reflect on industry developments past, present, and future. Stimulating debate in 2014 is a strong lineup of keynote addresses delivered under the Tech Titans moniker on 7 January. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai will kick things off on Tuesday morning while Cisco's John Chambers and Intel's Brian Kraznich are holding court in the afternoon. Yet it's actually the mid-afternoon slot that we'd stick the 'unmissable' tag on. At 14:00 PST (22:00 BST), Yahoo's Marissa Mayer will take the stage to share her vision on the products, services, and networks that will shape the next wave of innovation. Yahoo's resurgence under the Mayer stewardship has been impressive and we're looking forward to hearing her thoughts. Of course, ITProPortal will providing live updating coverage of CES 2014, so tune in for a complete digest of all the major talking points from Vegas.
Wearable tech takes centre stage
According to top analyst firm Gartner, wearable technology will be one of the key trends at CES 2014 and we wouldn't care to disagree. In many ways, wearables are still very much an embryonic product category, and that makes it all the more exciting to see what new devices are on the horizon next year. Health and fitness-related tech is probably the most mature part of this particular market, and will have a very strong presence at the show. However, the hottest tip for CES 2014 is that Samsung may unveil a second-generation smartwatch, potentially dubbed the Galaxy Gear 2; alternatively, the Korean mega-firm is also being linked with a Galaxy Band intelligent fitness bracelet. Sony, too, could have something wearable up its sleeve, following the 2013 debut of its Smartwatch 2, while a potential dark horse exists in the form of GPS specialist Garmin, which has promised exciting new products and the launch of a 'lifestyle' range. What exactly that means remains to be seen, but we wouldn't be at all surprised to see it bring its navigational expertise to your wrist. LG is also rumoured to be developing a watch-like device, but that's probably on hold until at MWC in February.
Samsung vs LG: Korean chaebols vie for spotlight
These days, the world's top tech firms tend to hold standalone launch events for their most coveted products, but that's not to say that CES 2014 won't feature any blockbuster reveals. Indeed, it looks like a heated showdown could be brewing as rival Korean firms Samsung and LG duke it out to see who can make the biggest splash on the Strip. As we mentioned, Samsung is being linked with the launch of the Galaxy Gear 2 as well as new Galaxy tablets, while LG has confirmed that it will out new 4K monitors and show off a Google Chrome-based AIO desktop PC. Both companies will also be unveiling monster 105in UHD TVs for the ogling pleasure of punters and it will be intriguing to see which firm manages to capture the imagination of punters over the course of the show.
Qualcomm to unleash new dragon
Could the most important product at CES actually be one of Vegas' least showy guests? Qualcomm is confirmed to follow up its bizarre CES 2013 keynote with a (possibly) more restrained outing centred around its new chipset, the recently announced 64-bit Snapdragon 410. So why should you care? Put simply, these are the engines that are going to be powering a number of important handsets in 2014. Interestingly, the Snapdragon 410 is aimed at entry-level devices, mostly of the Android ilk. In other words, not only will Apple's iPhone 5S lose the title of world's only 64-bit smartphone in the near future, but powerful 64-bit handsets - the improved architecture will better drive features like 4G LTE and high-quality cameras - will soon arrive at significantly lower price points. The Snapdragon 410, therefore, is an important evolution of Qualcomm's product line - and also likely contains some hints as to what we can expect from the chip maker's next high-end offering. We'll try to glean more from Qualcomm in between the steaks and pool parties.
Microsoft's triumphant return?
Here's the good news: Microsoft is back at CES in 2014, having ditched the show for the last few years in a fit of boredom-cum-petulance. The less charitable angle? Microsoft isn't returning to the catwalk in an enviable position. With top dog Steve Ballmer having bid a tearful goodbye in 2013, the tech giant is in the midst of a crucial leadership hunt, as well as contending with the continuing decline of the traditional PC market and the various struggles of Windows 8. Could CES be the perfect platform for it to announce a new captain and declare a fresh strategy? That's potentially a bit of a long-shot. What's much more likely is that we'll see a healthy amount of new Windows 8 devices outed over in Vegas, some of which - like the recently released Asus Transformer Book T100 - will come with very competitive price tags.