While a logistical hassle, in some ways holding the Consumer Electronic Show - which ended Sunday (Jan. 10) - at the very beginning of the each year is a fitting time-slot as it allows anyone following the tech space to get a handle on what to expect for the year while digesting the year that was.

Those attending the 2010 event said attendance was better than last year (although organizers have yet to release any numbers) and the overall mood was more optimistic. That's coming off a holiday sales season that can only be describes as "it could have been worse"-which while far from good, is better than bad.

According to a new NPD Group report, overall revenues from consumer electronic sales fell by 1%, which is better than the 6% drop reported the year prior. Although sales of MP3 players fell by 14% in terms of units sold, the category remains the top-selling category.

And the Consumer Electronics Association, the organizers of CES, predict a better year ahead-although it's kind of the trade lobby's job to hype the industry. It points to mobile smartphones as the likely growth driver for the entire consumer electronics category, with and expected 52 million smartphone sales this year alone.

Following these trends is important to the music industry to know where to expect new growth in music consumption. As more Internet-connected devices emerge into the mainstream, computers and MP3 players will soon no longer be the primary access point to music content.

Below is a round-up the top developments at CES to keep an eye on:
Mobile: New on-demand music streaming services from Thumbplay and Dada Entertainment highlighted the increasing competition to provide the better music mousetrap in the mobile space. With additional competitors like Spotify, and a potential offering from Apple, the mobile phone could finally reach its potential as being the music consumption device everyone in the music industry has long expected. As an interesting aside, Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo's keynote speech at CES was entirely focused on bringing wireless services to developing countries, and held no mention of the Comes With Music service.

Artists: At CES, companies used music celebrities to help build retail loyalty. Monster Cable booked Lady Gaga to promote her new line of headphones (Monster also has business deals with Dr. Dre and Diddy). Qualcomm hired Kid Rock. Taylor Swift participated in Sony's news conference. A year ago, budgets would not have allowed tech companies to hire such artists. To the tech industry, their appearances are seen as an indication that optimism is back. To the music industry, their appearances are evidence that artists and labels are making their own optimism by looking beyond traditional routes for revenue opportunities. (New York Times)

Tablet computers: This new category of computing device that lies somewhere between a laptop computer and a mobile phone is gearing up to be an interesting space for the music industry. They could provide the missing link between streaming music from the home computer and the home stereo and iPod docking systems. But so far no one product has made the waves necessary to make this a mainstream item. Little happened at CES to change that. Microsoft introduced it's first take on the category, with others coming from Lenovo and Freescale Semiconductor. But these represent the forward to the story, which is not expected to truly begin until Apple holds its Jan. 27 press event where it is expected to unveil a tablet computer of its own.

Cars: New Internet-connected automotive systems that blend navigation, information and entertainment could do wonders for the Internet radio and on-demand streaming music market. Pandora led the way at CES with high-profile integrations into Ford's new Sync system and a similar deal with Pioneer Electronics. Meanwhile Gracenote tapped artists Pete Wentz, Pat Monahan and others to contribute their voices and musical curation abilities to its CarStars program .

Of course, a host of other smaller products and services lent their voices to the overwhelming noise. A number of music services were introduced, as were new videogame controllers, and more.

For a wrap-up of what made the biggest splash-music-related and otherwise, check out the following:
- CNET editors awards
- Crunchgear best of CES
- Ars Technica, CES in pictures
- BusinessWeek spotlight on CES