The most wonderful time of the year (No, I’m not late)

It's sort of like Christmas in January. There will be lots of bright, shiny objects and more than a few good things in small packages. There's glitter, there's buzz and there's a swarm of people scurrying from here to there and back again.

It's time for the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show, known as CES to you and me. Early bird bean counters are saying attendance will be up by 10,000, meaning you should be ready to share cell-phone bandwidth with about 130,000 of your compatriots this week.

Several people have asked me what I think will make news at CES this year. I tell them to look for tablet computers, 3-D television and gaming and mobility. I'm sure there are companies out there that will manage to combine all three into one ultimate smart phone (and you won't need special glasses to see the 3-D action).

It's just a hunch, but I predict any attempt to jam those three technologies into one gadget will flop.

There will be many potential competitors to the Apple iPad, but I don't see any of them being a real short-term threat. That noisy grinding sound you hear in the distance is the iPad 2 rumor mill. Apple won't be at CES; it doesn't play well with others. But Steve Jobs and his cohorts somehow always manage to be in the front of the room while other companies play follow the leader.

I'm heading to The Venetian to collect the final parts of my credentials. My first CES event happens this afternoon, when the Consumer Electronics Association, the nonprofit group staging the show, briefs the press on the state of its industry, both in the United States and worldwide.

I'll then spend the rest of this week at CES-related events and on the CES show floor. I'll see the prototypes, play with the latest renditions and share with you what you may be seeing under your Christmas tree in the coming years.

Let the fun begin!