By Julia Boorstin, CNBC Correspondent
NEW YORK (CNBC) -- Apple (AAPL) is the elephant in the convention center here at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Apple has zero official presence at CES but the specter of Steve Jobs shadow looms large over every single bit of activity at the annual tech convention. While the company's execs remain in Cupertino, waiting for Jobs to make his black turtlenecked announcements on his own time, Apple's reach and influence at CES has never been larger.
Apple plays two key roles at CES.
First, it is the standard-bearer: the maker of the tablet to defeat. Every new tablet to be introduced by Panasonic, Motorola (MMI) or Microsoft (MSFT), every demo of Google's (GOOG) Android or Honeycomb technology on a large glossy screen faces direct (and harsh) comparison to Apple's iPad.
More from CNBC
Cisco's New Entertainment Play: Videoscape
CES Preview: Tablets, Streaming, and 3D
NewsCorp. On Track to Sell MySpace by Mid-Year
When the electronics-makers at the show talk of Google's upcoming new Honeycomb operating system, we can expect investors and show attendees to start rumbling about Apple's second generation device, which is expected to debut in April.The same holds true, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, for the iPhone and Apple TV. While Google Android-powered phones from Motorola, HTC, and Samsung celebrated blockbuster sales last year, the iPhone is still considered the aesthetic ideal. AppleTV is slowly but surely gaining traction as a viable way to watch web video on your TV. This stands in stark contrast to GoogleTV, which is still living down the disappointment of its limited content deals. GoogleTV will not have an official presence at CES this year, which means the set top box makers and connected TV proponents will be looking at Apple (and Netflix (NFLX)) as their competition -- not Google. Second, Apple gadgets will be in nearly every corner of CES -- in booths like NBC Universal's (both NBC Universal and CNBC are owned by parent company General Electric (GE)) to demo new services and streaming video. Any tech exhibitor that doesn't make its own tablet is likely to use Apple's. For what? The iPad can be programmed to be a remote control for a giant new flatscreen to an interactive map for the various demos at the booth. Plus, thousands -- if not tens of thousands -- of iPads are sure to be floating from booth to booth. Journalists will use them to take notes and entrepreneurs will whip them out for investors to outline business plans. These things will be littering the show floor -- just wait for the roar of complaints about how bad AT&T (T) reception is in the convention center. -- Written by Julia Boorstin of CNBC
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV