The Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet.
Despite the gloomy economy, shoppers are expected to
shell out for tablet computers this December, making them about
as popular as candy canes and twinkling lights.
The glossy-screened gadgets are the most-desired electronic
devices this holiday season. And, of all the gifts people are
craving, tablets are second only to clothing, according to
the Consumer Electronics Association.
The industry group expects US consumers to spend an average
of $US246 on electronic gifts, including tablets.
With help from his three siblings, Bob Cardina, 26, plans to
purchase an iPad for his parents for Christmas.
Cardina and his sister live in Washington. His parents live
in Tampa, Florida. So he's excited to be able to video chat
with his parents - them on the new iPad, him on his iPhone.
He thinks his mother will be especially happy with the gift.
One of her friends has an iPad and she's "definitely taken a
liking to it," he said.
To be sure, tablets were on some wish lists last year, but
they were mostly prized by gadget geeks. In the past year,
they have become more mainstream.
Consumers have become comfortable using touch screens,
especially as smartphones continue to proliferate. Tablets
are popping up in unexpected places, too. Apple Inc.'s iPad
in particular is being used as a learning tool in schools, a
digital cash register in shops and a menu at restaurants.
Last year, people were "trying to figure out what the whole
tablet thing was about," says Gartner analyst Carolina
Milanesi. "Now, people know what to do with a tablet."
For some people, the device has become indispensable for
playing and working. While you can surf the web, send emails
and watch movies on a laptop or smartphone, consumers are
gravitating to tablets because they can be more convenient.
The iPad is still expected to far outsell other tablets this
year. According to Gartner, nearly 64 million tablets will be
sold worldwide by the end of the year. Some 73 percent of
them will be iPads.
By Gartner's estimate, Apple will sell 47 million iPads this
year - a figure it could certainly achieve, given that it
sold 25 million of them by the end of September.
But while many think of the iPad as synonymous with the word
"tablet," plenty of shoppers will be looking for a more
affordable tablet to give this year.
Two of the most promising competitors come from online
retailer Amazon and book seller Barnes & Noble.
The companies, major players in the e-reader market, recently
released tablets of their own that undercut the iPad's $US499
base price: Amazon's Kindle Fire, which costs $US199, and
Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet, which costs $US249.
The Fire, which uses a heavily modified version of Google's
Android tablet software, is expected to be particularly
popular with gift givers in part because of its low price.
"When you get below $200, sales go up dramatically," says
technology analyst Rob Enderle.
Enderle thinks the Fire will be a popular gift, especially
for kids. To him, it seems sturdier than the iPad with a
display built from scratch- and crack-resistant Gorilla
Glass, and it's cheap enough that parents won't be upset if a
child manages to break it.
Tom Mainelli, an analyst at research group IDC, expects the
Fire and Nook Tablet to take the second- and third-place
spots, respectively, behind the iPad during the last three
months of the year.
Rather than hurting Apple, he believes the success of newer
tablets will help grow the entire tablet market.
"I don't think Apple loses just because Amazon wins," he
One of these Kindle Fire buyers is 24-year-old Ximena Beltran
Quan Kiu, who purchased the device for her mother as a
Beltran Quan Kiu says her mom bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab for
herself about a month ago, but didn't like it and returned
it. She's hoping her mom warms up to the Fire, though, which
she can use for reading, surfing the Web and watching movies.
To help make sure her mom likes it, Beltran Quan Kiu is also
giving a year's membership to Amazon's express shipping
program, Amazon Prime, which includes free streaming of more
than 10,000 movies and TV shows and the ability to borrow
certain books from Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
"It might not be the iPad, but it can hold its own against
the iPad," she says.