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Mobile CE, Gaming To Take CES Spotlight

While Las Vegas is always the place to be in early January to see new entertainment-related gadgets, the spotlight will be dispersed a bit this year several hundred miles north by northwest in San Francisco.

It is there, at the MacWorld Expo, where Apple is expected to announce its new iPhone.

The iPhone’s killer app will be its ability to connect wirelessly to the iTunes music store, allowing users to download music and video directly to their phones without the need to connect through a computer.

While other phones can play music and video, the popular acceptance of the iTunes store as a way to easily access content is the key piece that could propel the handheld device to the top of the media heap.

Concurrently, mobile technology will continue to play big at International CES this year.

Take Slingbox, which made a huge splash at last year’s CES with a device that connects remote users with their TV content over the Internet. This year, the company will use the confab to tout Slingbox Mobile, a new technology that makes that same content available to PDAs and cellphones running Windows Mobile. New Media Life, meanwhile, will showcase the Tavi 030 mobile player.

Winner of the CES Innovations Award in the portable audio/video category, the Tavi stores and plays not just standard music, videos and photos. It has high-definition capabilities that allow video stored on the device to be played on an HDTV monitor. It features access to IPTV and podcasting services, satellite TV reception and wireless video-on-demand, and it also displays e-books, records audio and has an FM radio tuner.

Meanwhile, with its next-generation gaming console finally on store shelves, expect Sony to emphasize the home media capabilities of its new PlayStation3 console.

In addition to games, the PS3 stores and displays music and photos, connects to the Internet and includes a built-in Blu-ray Disc player that is Sony’s Trojan horse in the high-definition format battle with HD DVD.

“It’s a rare opportunity to bring a new mainstream box into the home,” says Ross Rubin, industry analysis director at The NPD Group. “We’ll see if other manufacturers try to include such functions in their Blu-ray players.”

The PS3’s $599 price tag is expensive for a game console, but a bargain compared to Blu-ray decks that just play video and sell for as much as $1,000.

While CES is not well known as a show for personal computers, the introduction of Windows Vista could change that. The long-awaited and much-delayed new version of Microsoft’s industry-dominant operating system is set for public release on Jan. 30 and includes media center functionality in its Home Premium and Ultimate editions, expected to be the most commonly installed versions. Vista’s media capabilities will make it easier to connect PCs to TVs and other devices around the home and speed the use of PCs to download, store and play all kinds of audio and video content.