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CES: Wynn's Loss, It's Showtime, and Other Fun Stuff

I'm having tons of fun here at the 40th Annual Consumer Electronics Show. Here's is just a little taste of the sights & sounds from Sin City.

Fine Dining for the Power Elite:
Caesars Palace is not the first place that comes to mind for fine dining among the Power elite. But tucked in a quiet corridor of the resort - which on a good day conjures up a sort of Armani-meets-toga party-vibe, is Guy Savoy - the town's top restaurant. There is not a high roller in site. Instead CEOs like Terry Semel of Yahoo!, Bob Iger at Walt Disney and others feast on Alba white truffles and pumpkin soup, roasted grouse and a vast selection of rare French wines. It's not cheap with tasting menus running near three-hundred a piece but the place oozes power. They told me in hushed tones that Bill Gates himself might be there tonight. The stone, leather decor and contemporary art is a perfect setting for the tech gurus of CES. Of course this being Vegas, patrons enter the promenade past three wedding chapels on the Caesars premise....including Classico Chapel and Tuscany Chapel!! Viva Las Vegas!!

Wynn's Loss:
With over 150,000 CES attendees in town this week, Vegas hotels are mobbed and most folks are having a rip-roaring good time.

Beer, hot wings and the Chiefs/Colts game at the Venetian. Cuban cigars, 23-black and Rat Pack wannabes at Flamingo's Absolut Suites. Over at the Bellagio, the endless snow crab buffet sends masses swooning. The Mirage is pulsating with activity. Even that elderly woman at the five-cents slots -you know the one, a vodka tonic in one hand, cigarette in the other and the death stare if you try to edge in on her territory - cracked a smile.

So why is everyone so darn serious at the Wynn ? The place is gorgeous and Steve Wynn's impeccable taste is evident. The lighting makes everyone look ten years younger. The waterfall gleams and glistens. The food is marvelous, but the Esplanade of shops (Graff, Dior...) are empty. The only large groups are wedding parties en route to someplace else!!

What's up? My cabdriver summed it up pretty neatly: "At seven-hundred (yes, that is correct) dollars a night, people like to brag they are staying at the "best" hotel, but no one wants to actually stay there. They want fun. If they want to loosen up then better to choose the $80/night at the Frontier across the street - same strip, same view ... Hah!"

Well, perhaps, but the Wynn does live up to its criticism--it is gorgeous--but in the words of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, "It's so money!" isn't so hot for business. The Wynn's occupancy rate, I venture to guess, is a lot less than most Vegas hotels.

Show Time:
Blu-Ray, Wi-Fi, 101-inch Hi-def plasma TV - now that is technology that promises to knock your socks off! Have you ever notice that all these gadgets and gizmos are almost always referred to as "cool". Or in a moment of inspiration, "gee-whiz cool". But how about "thunderstruck."? Thought not.

Unless you are one of the lucky few with tickets to Cirque du Soleil's "LOVE" show at the Mirage. Bodies dancing, flying, hurtling, spinning through thin air and propelled by nothing but sheer talent, strength and magic. The acrobatic dance troupe performs to cherished Beatles songs like Here Comes The Sun, Hey Jude and Yesterday. Creator Guy Laliberte is a billionaire several times over and is arguably one of the Chief Architects to the Las Vegas boom along with Hoteliers Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn. His show leaves you with a sense of bewildered awe...how DO they do that??? Unless Bill Gates learns how to do a split mid-air dangling from a half-inch piece of rope upside down....all the money in the world can't elicit the same reaction from the new Zune, as this show does. Thunderstruck, indeed.

The Wall:
Bill Griffeth (Anchor), Ramona Schindelhelm (Exec. Prod.), Pat Bucci (Production Mgr), and Gerry Miller (cameraman) and I did a walkthrough last evening of the hall. One of our favorite things was a wall of Panasonic Plasma TVs with eight, count 'em - eight TVs. Each of them were 103-inches. They weight about 400 pounds and cost 70,000 thousand each. Someone took a picture of me practically hugging the screen. LG's new Blue-ray/HD DVD combo player has a good shot at becoming the darling of the show. There has been lots of buzz on how this is going to bridge two technologies in a big way. Bill will get CNET.com's Brian Coolley take on it all today.

Rice Cookers?:
One of the oddest displays here is a row of rice cookers and other assorted kitchen hand gadgets. I also noticed a wall of clocks with old fashioned roman numeral, not digital. Just one of things that make you go "huh?".

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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