Apple's Absence to be Felt at CES Gadget Show

By Peter Svensson, AP Technology Writer

What do you call it when you have 120,000 people and an elephant in the room?

The International Consumer Electronics Show, which kicks off this week in Las Vegas.

The elephant is Apple Inc. It won't be at the show this year, but its tablet computer, the iPad, is the most important new product for an industry that needs to once again excite consumers. Sales of the iPad have been strong since its April debut, and the whole industry is now trying to mimic Apple's success.

With the iPad, Apple single-handedly cracked the code for the tablet, a device that dozens of manufacturers have tried to take to the masses for two decades, with little success.

Apple itself doesn't do trade shows. When Apple has new products to reveal, such as iPads or iPhones, it stages its own events.

But nearly every other company in the industry will be there for CES, which runs Thursday to Sunday and is the largest trade show of any kind in the Americas. A good many of them will show off their tablets — computing slabs with touch-sensitive screens. Big names expected to do so include Motorola Inc. and Dell Inc.

DisplaySearch analyst Richard Semenza estimated that a hundred different tablet models are in development, though not all of them will reach store shelves.

Competing tablets will have a hard time catching up to Apple's lead, at least this year. Certainly, no one managed to do so last year, even though a lot of manufacturers, including Dell, brought out tablets. Samsung did have some success with its Galaxy Tab, but sales didn't come close to the iPad's.

"For the next year or two, we expect there to be a lot of false starts, failed attempts, and disasters," Richard Shim, another DisplaySearch analyst, said in a blog post.

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