NEW YORK — The largest trade show in the Americas must be a great place to show off new products, right?
The International Consumer Electronics Show is becoming a launch pad for products that fall flat.
When the annual conclave kicks off next week, the 2,800 or so exhibitors will show off tons of tablet computers, 3-D TVs and slim, light laptops called ultrabooks.
In recent years, CES has spawned few successes.
■ In 2009, "netbooks" — tiny, cheap laptops — were a hot category at the show. They did have a good year, but interest was already waning when Apple obliterated the category with the launch of the iPad in 2010.
Also in 2009, Palm touted its webOS software, running on a new generation of smartphones. Those devices debuted later that year to dismal sales. A year later, Palm was sold to Hewlett-Packard, which killed the product line in 2011.
■ In 2010, TV makers made a big push with 3-D sets, hoping to ride the popularity of 3-D movies. Sales were disappointing; buyers balked at wearing glasses and found little to watch in 3-D.
Other manufacturers at that show hoped to ride the success of Amazon.com's Kindle with their own e-readers. They failed. Barnes & Noble made some inroads later in the year with its Nook, but that rivalry played out away from CES.
■ In 2011, more than 100 brands of tablet computers were on display, trying to ride the coattails of the iPad. Many didn't make it to the market; those that did couldn't dent Apple's market share.
A big part of the "curse" of the show is that the company that has been driving trends in the industry, Apple, doesn't show products there. It doesn't have a booth, and its executives don't give speeches. It hasn't had an official presence at all since the 1990s.
Apple just doesn't do trade shows. When it has something new, it puts on a news conference. That way, it can control everything.
So what potential flops will be hyped at the show this year?
■ Windows 8 will be an important new product in 2012, but the late-year launch means PC and tablet makers hoping for a CES boost will have to wait.
The new operating system is built for touch screens, made popular by iPhones and iPads. Windows 8 also will run on cellphone-style processing chips, the type used in most tablets. That should improve battery life considerably over the PC-type chips that Windows runs on today. However, many analysts think Microsoft already has lost this market to Apple.
■ As a stopgap, PC makers will show off ultrabooks. They're essentially Windows versions of the MacBook Air laptop, which uses chips instead of a spinning hard drive for storage. That makes the machines lighter and thinner but more expensive. Expectations are modest: Gary Balter at Credit Suisse said they could make up 10 percent of laptops sales this year.
■ Some tablet makers will try to catch the Kindle Fire wave with smaller, cheaper tablets. But the profit margins are tiny at that price, so bigger Asian manufacturers are setting their sights on the tablet version of Windows 8, hoping it will provide them better opportunities, said Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at IHS iSuppli.
■ TV makers will be talking about "smart," Internet-connected sets. They're not exactly new, but we'll see the first full-size TVs that use organic light-emitting diodes in place of LCDs. LG Electronics has confirmed that it will show off a 55-inch set to be sold late in the year. The price hasn't been disclosed, but is likely to be high. OLED sets can be remarkably thin — in LG's case, less than a third of an inch — and should boast improved image quality.
We'll also see TVs that respond to gestures or spoken commands. However, until cable set-top boxes get smart, too, we won't be able to abandon remotes.
Analyst Paul Gagnon of DisplaySearch said TV makers are trying to get ahead of Apple. He and other analysts said Apple is working on a TV set that could be introduced this year. Some speculate that Siri, the iPhone's voice-control application, is a dry run for a voice-controlled TV.
Apple has agreements with Hollywood studios for sales and rentals of movies through iTunes, but to create a TV that's unmistakably Apple, it would probably require broader agreements with content providers, such as rights to stream live TV. Even Apple might not be able to challenge the content industry's way of business.