by Donna M. Airoldi | January 04, 2011

The 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is taking over the Las Vegas Convention Center and nearby hotels from Jan. 6-9, with exhibitors introducing nearly 20,000 new products this year.

Shawn Dubravac, chief economist and director of research for CES, predicts that electronic tablets and products using 3D technology will be the big news this year, which means they'll also become hot items for inclusion as merchandise rewards in incentive and recognition programs.

“Without doubt, 2011 will be the year of the tablet,” says Dubravac. “Apple’s launch of the iPad has left an undeniable print on the mobile computing space. After a decade with minimal success, a tablet computing device is (finally) garnering mass market appeal.”

Dubravac compares the excitement to that of e-readers one year ago. “At the 2010 International CES we saw a dozen-plus new e-readers revealed—with many of these devices just now coming to market,” he says. “Design cycles as they are mean tablets are really a 2011 story, not as much a 2010 one, and CES will mark the debut for many of these. I have a list of [more than 80] tablets that have been announced, and many of these will see the light of day at the 2011 CES.”

Vizio, Motorola, HP, Samsung, Asus, and LG are just a few of the companies that have confirmed or are rumored to be announcing new tablets at the show this week. There’s also bound to be a plethora of new accessories for these popular products, from cases and bags to Bluetooth-enabled devices.

“With competition heating up, each and every aspect of differentiation will be on the table—[operating system], screen size, color, and available applications,” adds Dubravac.

At the 2010 CES show, 3D products were hot items, and that trend is expected to continue this year. “3D is still a nascent home entertainment technology, so … expect to see more 3D than ever before,” says Dubravac. Bigger and more feature-rich 3D television products are expected, but he says to also look for 3D eyewear, “where no standard exists yet. I expect to see several companies highlighting 3D active shutter eyewear solutions. Autostereoscopic—3D without the need for eyewear—will be more pronounced this coming year [as will 3D] in the rear seat of the vehicle, in the palm of your hand through mobile devices, and in digital signage.”