At the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, computer makers will be pushing a new breed of ultra-thin, ultra-light laptops amid a sea of razor-thin smartphones and tablets.
Last year, 140,000 people in the technology industry convened at the Las Vegas Convention Center to mingle and gawk at cutting-edge hardware. The organizers expect to welcome at least that many people next week.
Electronics makers use CES as a platform to show the types of products they plan to release in the coming year. The compact disc player, high-definition television and Blu-ray each debuted at past conventions. Decades since its formation, the yearly six-day event is a spectacle.
But with some of the largest players in today's consumer electronics industry shunning CES, the trade show's impact may be waning.
Apple, the world's most valuable technology company, and Amazon, an upstart in tablets and the leader in e-readers, do not participate. Google's operating systems can be found in partners' booths, running on phones, tablets and TVs, but the software giant does not run a booth.
And Microsoft, which will deliver its 14th CES presentation Monday, announced recently it will not have a booth or participate in the keynotes after this year's event.
"Are we doing something because it's the right thing to do, or because 'it's the way we've always done it?'" a Microsoft spokesman asked rhetorically in a statement.
The big product categories that will dominate the CES show floor next week, according to manufacturers and analysts, are not revolutionary. They are expected to be thinner, lighter and more refined versions of gadgets that have already gained a toehold with consumers.
Electronics makers have been chasing after Apple's iPad for two years, and the racetrack is expected to get more crowded next week.
Google and Samsung last month released the first phone running Android 4.0, which is Google's first system that's designed to work consistently on either a phone or a tablet. At CES, tech companies will showcase plenty of phones with that software, but the touchscreen tablets with Android 4 will be prevalent.
Not to get left out of the party it started about a decade ago, Microsoft is stepping up its tablet efforts. The next major version of Windows will have a revamped interface for tablet computers, which will present programs as tiles that can be touched to fill the screen.
Analysts expect to see a bevy of Windows 8 tablets at CES.
With so many options, bargain hunters may get to pick something besides Amazon's Kindle Fire, which lit up holiday sales last month. (The Fire actually has quite a bit of Android code under the hood. Sorry, Microsoft.)
Windows won't be just for tablets, of course. A new breed of computers called Ultrabooks will launch at CES from several PC manufacturers.
If the tablet wars are a response to the iPad, then Ultrabooks follow in the footsteps of Apple's MacBook Air. They are thinner and lighter than the average laptop because they typically do not have disc drives, and instead of hard drives, use flash memory, which is faster but more expensive.
Microsoft will enable this anti-disc computer with the application store in Windows 8. But the Ultrabook initiative is being driven by Intel, which makes the processor that runs them.
"You have Intel pushing heavily on this very thin but relatively traditional clamshell form factor without a lot of emphasis on touch," NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin said in a phone interview. "And then you've got Microsoft pushing the touchscreen tablet experience."