As has become the annual custom, the tech industry will celebrate the new year by congregating en masse in the Las Vegas Convention Center to showcase their latest and greatest gadgets and gear. This year will be no different, as the event kicks off Jan. 7.

And as has proven the case in the past several years, the biggest tech news is set to take place outside the walls of the convention center. Google pre-empted the conference with the introduction of its much-anticipated Nexus One Android powered mobile phone on Jan. 5. Apple has a Jan. 27 press event planned at which it is expected to unveil an equally pined-for tablet computer.

So what's left to make CES exciting? Usually much-hyped products make a huge splash only to never see the light of day. Remember the Moxi multi-room DVR? Or Microsoft's SPOT smart watch? But there are a few items expected that the music industry may want to keep an eye on in the off-chance one of them takes root.

Yes, Apple is expected to set the bar on what a tablet computer should be during its late-January event, but several companies will roll-out their versions nonetheless. These thin, touchscreen devices aren't exactly as portable as the iPod, but fill an interesting niche between mobile phones and laptop computers. They represent a new device for music access, and could have an impact on popularizing digital album covers such as the iTunes LP initiative. Look for Dell and HTC to introduce tablet computers running on Google's Android operating system.

Connected Cars:
The automobile is one of the few places people still listen to radio. But terrestrial broadcasters will see continued competition from Internet-based music services with a broad new lineup of connected car systems being showcased this year. Ford holds one of the show's keynote slits, so expect some announcement then, with additional news expected from Visteon Corp and Kia. iSuppli estimates 62.3 million drivers will have Internet access in their car by 2016, up from less than 1 million in 2009, and the U.S. will lead that growth with 28.3 million.

In addition to more connected TVs that can access the Internet and the content and services found there, CES should see an influx of 3D-TVs. Sure, much of the excitement will be about showing off advanced DVDs of "Avatar," but 3D-capabile HDTVs and Blu Ray Players could add a lot of momentum to not only high-def music videos, but also drive interest in the aforementioned Internet connectivity.

It's not all about devices. Cisco will use CES to announce an update to its Eos social entertainment platform. You may remember Cisco used CES last year to announce a partnership with Warner Music Group, which adopted the Eos platform as the underlying technology for all its artists' Web sites. Tenth Street Entertainment and All Access Today are its news music industry clients. The platform also has new features, such as Facebook Connect integration, site migration tools, member database management functionality, integration with ad serving technologies and a set of APIs to allow clients to add features from other services into their Eos-powered sites.

Other music related news expected:
- Samsung is exhibiting two new MP3 players-the IceTouch and the MyFit.
- Olive will unveil a new HD music system collaboration with Thiel.
- Lady Gaga will make an announcement related to the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones, along with Dr. Dre and Interscope Chariman Jimmy Iovine at the Monster booth.