DETROIT – The tech industry’s two big winter gatherings open this week amid signs the recession and diminished demand for new gadgets are resulting in much lower-key affairs with fewer attendees and less glitz and glamour.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is without its annual stalwart, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who has stepped down from day-to-day leadership in the company. And the big Macworld event in San Francisco is without Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who on Monday disclosed a hormonal imbalance that he said accounts for his alarming gauntness.

Apple has earlier noted that this is the last year it will participate in Macworld, the premier event that celebrates its computer lineup.

But besides the top draw absences, it looks like a lot of regular attendees will be bypassing this week’s tech parties.

Officially, CES says 130,000 have registered, down by about 13,000 – or 8 percent – from last year’s crowd.

But because a lot of those registrations were made months ago, before the effects of the recession were being felt, many are predicting a much bigger drop, as vendors and news media decide travel, hotels and those expensive Vegas taxicabs aren’t worth the expense this year.

Regardless, because fewer reporters are attending, news of CES product unveilings is trickling out early.

Tuesday, for example, HP announced several new cost-conscious PC products, including new ultra-light notebooks, ahead of the CES show opening on Thursday.

Same with Lenovo, a Chinese computer-maker, and television-maker LG Electronics, which has announced broadband-enabled high-definition TV sets that have built-in broadband connections to take streaming online video.

Highlights of the show will be an address Wednesday night by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who will show off the coming Windows 7 release later this year. On Thursday, Ford CEO Alan Mulally will deliver a CES keynote on auto tech, highlighting improvements to its SYNC in-vehicle voice-activated technology and entertainment system.


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