Here we are again, in Vegas. Tomorrow, the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off, and we’ll be here to report on all the best new gear and the most intriguing trends and ideas that will define your gadget-buying year.

In recent years, CES has become less of a place for jaw-dropping new announcements (with exceptions of course—remember the Palm Pre?). The major tech companies continue to take a page from the book of Apple by stepping outside the avalanche of new products at CES to break bigger news at special events throughout the year. This year, CES-stalwart Microsoft has said 2012 will be its last at the show, and the mobile carriers are scaling back their presences as well.

Despite this decline in immediate public interest, CES still plays a very important role in the year of gadgets. It’s where all the nationwide retailers—the Best Buys, the Wal-Marts—make a lot of their important stocking decision for the year. Much of what you’ll see when gadget shopping in 2012 will be decided this week in Vegas. That’s important.

This year, we’ll be seeing lots of Macbook Air clones, as PC manufacturers hope to capitalize on Apple’s wildly successful, ultra-thin laptop line. With 3-D beginning its third year on the market, we’ll see TVs continuing to get smarter and more connected. And the further tabletization of computing—you can always count on some new tablets here at CES.

Later this week, we’ll present our best-of-show list. Along the way, we’ll be synthesizing the important topics and ideas emerging from the torrent of new products.

Aside from right here on the site, Twitter’s a great place to follow along for more news and thoughts as we dive into the show.

Follow along, starting tomorrow, right here.