When it comes to blockbuster product introductions, Apple is king. So it’s not surprising that Google, which is looking to challenge Apple’s iPhone dominance, is stealing a page from the Steve Jobs & Co. playbook.

Google emailed invitations to reporters on Tuesday for “an Android press gathering” that will take place at its Mountain View, California headquarters on Jan 5, as rumours continue to swirl that the company is preparing to release a Google-branded smartphone.

Yes, that’s the same week as the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Sony, Microsoft, Samsung et al will dutifully convene to show off their latest doodads.

Wresting the spotlight away from CES with a better fireworks display is classic Apple: Jobs gave the world its first peek at the iPhone in January 2007 at San Francisco’s Macworld, instantly vaporizing any value in the press releases and preparations of every hapless gadget maker that had trudged to Vegas that week.

And if Google ends up introducing the much-anticipated, Nexus One phone next week, the announcement could suck the oxygen out of all other technology products, as some commentators have noted.

The only device that could potentially compete with a Google phone for attention is the Apple tablet, another much-speculated about device whose existence has never been confirmed by the company.

But Apple appears to be waiting until after CES to take the wraps off the tablet. According to a report in the Financial Times, Apple has reserved space on Jan 26 at a San Francisco venue for a “major product announcement.”

Whatever ends up happening, it’s hard to miss the irony that the two most hotly-anticipated gadgets of 2010 both appear to be skipping the Vegas exposition, whose entire raison d’etre is premised on showcasing the newest and most important consumer electronics products.