It's that time of year again! Next week I'm headed to Las Vegas for CES 2012, along with 140,000 other people (bring your hand sanitizer!). Here's what I'll be looking for among the masses of gadgets:

  • Tablets: Ice Cream Sandwich, Windows 8, and all the rest. Last year, there were more than 80 tablets that debuted at CES. This year, I expect the field to be whittled down some, but there will be plenty of CE manufacturers strutting their stuff. Look for new Android 4.0 tablets from Motorola, Toshiba, Acer, and others. Will they sell better than last year? I don't expect to see any barn-burners, but there's reason to be optimistic: The percentage of US tablet shoppers who say they prefer Android as the operating system on that tablet doubled from 9% to 18% between January and September 2011. Meanwhile, the percentage of tablet shoppers who say they prefer Windows decreased from 46% to 25% — still more than those who prefer Android. We'll be looking for the dazzling Windows 8 demos at the Microsoft booth and elsewhere. In addition, we'll be looking at how smaller companies are using Android as an enabling platform but building their own curated experience on top. For example, I'm meeting with Jean-Yves Hepp to check out the Qooq, an Android-based tablet optimized for cooking and kitchen use that's selling well in France.
  • Ultrabooks: a sexy PC revolution! We've been writing since 2007 that the "Age of Style" was coming to PCs. Well, turns out we made that call five years too soon. Ok, that's a bit unfair . . . but in any case, we expect to see thin-and-light quick-boot designs from every PC manufacturer to rival the MacBook Air. My colleague David Johnson expects to see more than 50 Ultrabooks at CES this year, and we both are wondering how they will differentiate from each other. The prices, mostly in the $1,000 range, are much more reasonable than they used to be for comparable PCs, but they're still not affordable for every PC buyer. In a September survey of 5,130 US online consumers, we found that 22% of PC shoppers said they'd be interested in buying an Ultrabook at the current prices. Not bad, but it's an indication that Ultrabooks will appeal only to a certain segment of consumers and won't replace every laptop on the shelves.
  • Wearables: the next form factor. Despite the recent recall of Jawbone Up wristbands, we see wearables as a viable candidate for the next form factor of the post-PC era. It's notable that three of the finalists of the "Last Gadget Standing" contest for CES 2012 are wearables: the WIMM One Android watch, the Basis wristband health monitor, and the Looxcie ear-mounted camcorder. I'm meeting with the folks from WIMM, and I'll be looking for new and interesting wearables as I walk the long halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. If you see any noteworthy ones, tweet @srepps #wearables.