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The traditional fishing vest and new camera sling.

I’m packing my gear in preparation for my annual trek to Las Vegas, where I’ll be covering the Consumer Electronics Show for GeekWire starting Sunday, just as soon as I’m done losing my spare cash on some ill-advised wagering on the NFL playoffs.

First things first, because I know you care about the wardrobe: As in years past, I’ve reached deep into the closet for my traditional Eddie Bauer fishing vest — good for toting rechargeable batteries, a spare phone, business cards, mobile broadband stick, digital recorder, and other small items.

New this year: I’m supplementing the fishing vest with a nifty sling-style camera strap, allowing me to quickly grab my camera whenever I see anything worth capturing as a picture or video. I’ve been testing it out like a dork today around the house, and it works great.

I’ve been going to CES for almost a decade now, and I always look forward to the show with a sense of anticipation and dread. It’s a great chance to see, first-hand, many of the technologies that we’ll be talking about and buying next holiday season and beyond. But it can be a logistical challenge, to say the least, trying to navigate the crowd of tens of thousands of people across multiple Las Vegas venues to find the best stuff at the show.

As you might have read, it’s the last year that Microsoft will have a major presence at the show in terms of a big keynote and booth. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be delivering his speech Monday night, on the eve of the official start of CES.

Even though it’s a swan song, of sorts, I’m not expecting any huge news from Microsoft at CES this year. Expect lots of discussion about the company’s momentum with Windows 7, Xbox Live and Kinect, and its plans for Windows 8. Kinect numbers, in particular, would be interesting to hear, because it has been a long time since Microsoft has updated us on life-to-date sales of the motion-sensing device.

One of the most closely watched bits of Microsoft-related news is slated to come earlier on Monday, from the Nokia news conference, where Microsoft’s key mobile partner is expected to talk about its upcoming Windows Phone devices. I’ll be lining up to get into that news conference, as well.

Intel will be another key company to watch at the show, with PC makers planning slim “ultrabook” notebooks based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor, as alternatives to the iPad.  I’ll also be paying close attention to news about televisions, and particularly Google’s attempts to gain traction in the living room. Its efforts are key to companies including Seattle’s BuddyTV, which will also have a presence at the show.

Tablets and e-readers are another key topic to watch. Neither Amazon nor Apple will have an official presence at the show, despite the fact that much of the news in those areas will revolve around them.

In years past I’ve made a tradition of also covering the technology trends at the Adult Entertainment Expo (a tough assignment, I know) but as it happens, it takes place later in the month and won’t coincide with CES this year. Disappointing, I know.

Most importantly, I’m doing my best to keep blocks of my schedule clear, leaving time for serendipitous discovery of cool and interesting stuff, which is what really makes CES worthwhile.

Check back with GeekWire next week to follow along with my 2012 Las Vegas adventure. And in the meantime, if anyone has any tips on the Saints-Lions game, I’m all ears.

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