It's that time of year again.

CES, the world's biggest tech and consumer electronics trade show, will run from Jan. 7 to Jan. 12 (Sunday to Friday) at several venues in Las Vegas. It's expected to attract over 175,000 attendees and will feature over 4,000 exhibitors, including many big-name consumer electronics, PC, chip and auto industry firms. I'll be on site the whole week to cover this massive event; check our home page for details.

As in prior years, plenty of new products and partnerships are expected to be unveiled at this year's show. Here are some areas to keep a close eye on:

1. Cars -- and what's going inside of them

Cars were easily the biggest story at CES 2017, and should also figure prominently at CES 2018. Automakers such as Ford (F) , Toyota (TM)  and BMW are expected to show off autonomous driving tech, as are suppliers such as Aptiv (APTV)  (formerly Delphi) and Intel (INTC) . Nvidia's (NVDA)  big Sunday press event at 8 p.m PT is expected to focus on announcements related to its self-driving platforms.

But autonomous driving is just one part of the story here. Electric car announcements are also expected from the likes of Kia, Fisker and China's Byton. And plenty of automakers and suppliers will be demoing solutions for making cars more intelligent and/or connected. Mercedes-Benz, for example, will be showing off a next-gen infotainment platform with two massive in-dash screens called MBUX, as well as three concept cars.

2. New virtual reality and augmented reality headsets

While some of the early hype surrounding virtual reality has died down, headset makers and their chip/display suppliers continue making gradual progress towards addressing current shortcomings in areas such as display quality and processing power. Look for fresh announcements to this effect at CES.

VR headsets -- whether standalone models or ones requiring pairing with a PC -- featuring higher display resolutions and refresh rates are likely. Also expect fresh partnerships with game developers and others for high-quality VR content.

News flow for augmented reality headsets might be more subdued -- both because the technology needed for mass-market consumer AR headsets remains a work in progress, and because some of the big names leading the charge won't be present. But there should be some interesting prototype headset and demos. Vuzix (VUZI)  shares jumped on Friday on news the company will use CES to show off smart glasses that support's Alexa voice assistant.

3. Smartphone announcements

Since Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF) (and for that matter, Alphabet/Google (GOOGL) ) use non-CES events to launch new flagship phones, CES generally doesn't see a lot of smartphone-related hype. But this year's show should contain some noteworthy announcements.

Huawei is expected to detail the U.S. launch of its new Mate 10 flagship phone; AT&T (T) and Verizon  (VZ) are rumored to be launch partners. And vendors such as Sony (SNE) , LG and HMD Global (sells phones under the Nokia brand) are expected to unveil mid-range devices.

We might also see Samsung provide a sneak peek at the Galaxy S9 at its press event on Monday at 2 p.m. PT. A full unveiling of the phone, however, isn't expected until the Mobile World Congress, which runs from Feb. 26 to March 1.

4. Cutting-edge PCs

Quite a few gaming PCs were shown off at CES last year, and with demand for gaming hardware having only strengthened since, there should be plenty of additional launches this year. Look for OEMs to show off systems supporting Nvidia's Max-Q platform, which allows thin-and-light notebooks to pack high-end Nvidia GPUs. In addition, Intel and AMD are expected to demo a recently-announced notebook solution that places an Intel Core i7 CPU and AMD Radeon RX Vega GPU inside the same chip package.

Also look for Windows 10 notebooks and convertibles running Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor to be demoed. In December, Qualcomm and Microsoft (MSFT) promised the devices will provide 20-plus hours of battery life and can be instantly woken in a manner similar to smartphones and tablets.

5. More salvos in the smart home device battle

Though Amazon didn't have a booth at CES 2017, its Alexa voice assistant made plenty of headlines, as many OEMs unveiled devices that either supported the assistant or could be controlled by it. This year, Amazon's (AMZN) Alexa team will have a CES exhibit of its own, as will the Google Assistant team, which is eager to narrow Alexa's early smart speaker lead and will probably have many OEM announcements of its own.

In addition to the usual hardware and integration announcements, this year's show could feature announcements related to making smart-home devices from multiple vendors work together via a single voice command. Also, look for new types of smart-home devices to be revealed -- some more practical than others. Delta Faucet, for example, plans to reveal a "smart faucet" that can be controlled by Alexa.

Jim Cramer and the AAP team hold positions in Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Nvidia for their Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL, GOOGL, MSFT and NVDA? Learn more now.

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