Show proves tech boom never went bust

Panasonic, Palm, Philips and other makers of cell phones, handheld computers and electronic doodads would have you believe the good times are rolling now like never before.

They may have a point.

More than 2,000 such companies are trucking their newest wares to Las Vegas' International Consumer Electronics Show this week, promising to overwhelm the city's gargantuan convention hall. The show, which features keynotes by chiefs of Sony, Microsoft and Intel, has normally pessimistic analysts abuzz with a fervor that seems alien in times of war and uncertainty.

"If you're a techie, this is gadget nirvana," said Tim Bajarin, president of technology consulting firm Creative Strategies.

As once-mighty technology shows like Comdex and TechXNY falter, CES thrives. The reason, perhaps, is that the now-ubiquitous personal computer was never central to the CES show. Now, PC technology is being integrated into slick gadgets that have stolen the limelight from the PC and the trade shows created to tout it.

Even Microsoft, the company that cashed in most on the PC revolution, is eager to talk about home entertainment hubs, wireless displays and Internet appliances like the alarm clock that downloads weather and traffic news while you sleep.

In 1967, when the first CES opened in New York City, vendors extolled the latest in transistor radios, audio cassettes and small-screen black-and-white TVs.

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