By David Kirkpatrick

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Showtime in tech land

Time was, if you were anybody in tech you flocked every fall to Comdex in Las Vegas, where hardware and software companies trumpeted their latest innovations for business. That was then. Comdex is moribund, canceled this year and facing an uncertain future. Now the main show in tech is International CES, or Consumer Electronics Show, coming Jan. 6--9 to the same halls that once housed Comdex. While Bill Gates, by tradition, always began Comdex with a major keynote, now he does the same thing every year at CES. This year's other speakers include HP's Carly Fiorina, Intel's Craig Barrett, and Motorola's Ed Zander. While corporate technology long led the IT industry, the CES ascension is the clearest sign yet that the consumer is king. In 2004, Americans spent $130 billion on consumer electronics, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts CES. That exceeds the $124 billion that U.S. businesses spent on IT hardware, according to the IDC research firm. So what will be hot this year at CES? Expect lots of talk about ultra-wideband wireless, hot products to link all your home electronics, cellphones that do everything but wash your clothes, and new ways the media industry is thinking about distributing content to today's vast array of digital devices. In other words, all the stuff you'll be coveting next holiday season. -- David Kirkpatrick