Summary:

This Thursday marks the beginning of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Unlike many of its rivals, Apple doesn’t play the CES game. So what does the show have to offer the average Apple user? At least two things: accessories and a sense of superiority.

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Thursday, Jan. 6 marks the beginning of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Unlike many of its biggest rivals, Apple doesn’t play the CES game. So what does the show have to offer the average Apple user? At least two things: accessories and a sense of superiority.

My inbox is usually flooded with a steady stream of emails from PR and marketing agencies touting the amazing new products their clients have to offer. That steady stream becomes a raging torrent during CES season. If an accessory or device maker can release or announce a new product at CES, it will. So if you’re looking for a new iPad or iPhone case, battery, charger, backup solution, or anything else that you can plug into an Apple product to (arguably) make it better, this could be the time to find it.

Some good things will come from the accessory rush. For example, MiLi Power is introducing a $99 iPad HDMI dock/speaker combo that should make it incredibly easy for you to hook your iPad up to HDTVs anywhere you go, and playback content (like Netflix) in 1080i, which adds considerably to the iPad’s cord cutting potential. And there’s an iPad-compatible version of Breffo’s versatile Spiderpodium flexible dock that I can see being a great boon to gym-goers. Watching the gadget parade is fun, but overall, consumers will want to stay back from the accessory madness and instead see what emerges as most promising when the dust settles a few weeks down the road.

The other thing CES provides Apple fans is a solid reminder of why we remain devotees of the products coming out of Cupertino. We can thank Apple’s longtime rival Microsoft for a lot of that sense of satisfaction. It seems like every year at CES we see Microsoft trying to launch new platforms to compete with Apple. Last year, it introduced the HP Slate, which didn’t launch until Oct. 22, 2010, by which time the iPad had already dominated the tablet market and shown what a folly it is to try to shoehorn an OS not designed for touch computing onto a touch computing device.

This year, Microsoft is set to unveil yet more tablet efforts, from Samsung, Dell and others. But unless we see a tablet-optimized Windows 8 (or a special version of Windows Phone 7), don’t expect these new devices to make good on any claims of being “iPad killers.” Apple followers should take competing tablet product announcements (including those powered by Android) as a rough preview of what’s to come with the iPad 2. Specs and features should indicate roughly where the iPad needs to be to stay on top, but expect Apple to have something extra to show off when it unveils its next generation tablet.

Microsoft is also expected to introduce an Apple TV competitor, which basically consists of a stripped down PC with a special Media Center-only version of Windows 7 running on it. The device should have onboard storage, but reportedly also be twice the price of Apple’s offering. Not sure what Microsoft hopes to gain by challenging Apple and Google with what sounds like repackaged existing software, but it could provide additional incentive for Apple to expand Apple TV’s capabilities, at least.

With Macworld coming up Jan. 26 – 29, and likely an Apple event toward the end of the month if history repeats itself, CES is a nice enough appetizer, but it certainly isn’t the main course. I’ll probably be spending my Jan. 6 playing with (and likely spending too much money on) the Mac App Store.

What are you most looking forward to from the show?

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