Tech Shopping considerations Christmas 2011

American Thanksgiving is about 2 weeks away now. Major retail chains will open at midnight that evening with their door busters to get a head start shopping for gifts for their loved ones. I know a lot of people that will head out this year trying to buy the right gadgets and thought I put some thoughts and considerations for those together.


Gaming Devices

Skip them this year – All major manufacturers of gaming consoles, Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, have announced that they will introduce to the public the next generation of home entertainment devices during the E3 conference early summer 2012. Pictures of prototypes of the next Nintendo Wii-U have been already shared since last year’s event, so that we can expect a full release for sales next year. All gaming consoles are as of today at the end of their life cycle.

Mobile gaming devices will lose their appeal as well. Microsoft will most likely release Windows 8 next year which will be an OS for tablet devices similar to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Games on these platforms are already rich and they come cheap. You can buy today good games on tablets and mobile devices at a fraction of the costs compared to mobile gaming platforms. 7-inch tablets are now on the market for $249 and up, so that the economics are working against mobile gaming devices very quickly.

Cameras

Nobody needs digital compact cameras anymore. The average cell-phone comes today with at least 3 Megapixel, most of them even shoot High-Def video with 720 pixels vertical resolutions and 30 frames a second. As Clayton M. Christensen describes in his book “The Innovators Dilemma”, camera phones are getting ‘good enough’, so that most people do not want or need to carry an extra device around. Compact cameras may have still a place for people that do not have a cell phone yet, like my 6 year old daughter or my approaching 70 years of age parents that say they don’t need a cell phone.

There are special cameras for certain applications that have a space and that are popular. One of them is e.g. the GoPro Hero which starts at different resources on the web for $229 and allows for ‘action movies’. The device is designed for people that like to be in the outdoors and enjoy shooting video. It is ruggedized and allows video capture during water activities such as kayaking, snowboarding, skiing and surfing.

Television sets

3D television is coming, and it will be even better as part of a larger entertainment system with gaming consoles, once they all support 3D. They are pretty early in their evolution and require proprietary eyewear to work. The industry is still working on compatibility and interoperability issues, so that I would skip them this year.


It is time though to replace the smaller TV’s in your house. Flat panel displays start below $200 today, provide better picture, save space and consume less power. It may be time to replace some of these in your kids rooms. If money is not a big concern, go for an internet enabled TV. Our kids like YouTube already better than traditional TV, and I would expect that a lot of us will try to get rid of their cable bills as soon as we can get full internet TV in our households. Problem here is, that these TV sets start at about $1000. Expect them to drop below $500 by next year.

Tablets / e-readers

If reading is all you want to do, get the Amazon Kindle. For about $100 it is the perfect reading device usable in bright sunlight where we struggle to read of the glass screens most other tablets use. If you are reading a lot, it may be even worth to get one, considering the price, in addition to your tablet.

If you want to do more you need a tablet. This Christmas seasons best seller will most likely be the Kindle-Fire coming in at $249, which will allow you to watch movies, listen to music, read, play games and shop on amazon.com. This will be though a pretty closed eco-system that has limitations if you want to add your own content and has a limited web experience. The price is appealing, but the functionality is very tied to amazon.com. Order it now if you want to be sure to have it by Christmas. There have been millions already be pre-sold!

Open Tablets start at $349 with the 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab. I think this may be the best choice taking functionality and price into account. I learned to appreciate having an internet browser that is ‘always on’ with me all the time for quick fact checking while watching TV or book a campsite at the breakfast table. I got to admit that I like my Apple iPad. It starts at $499 but is probably the best device out there today.

I don’t expect that Windows 8 tablets will have a significant impact in consumer electronics. Windows 8 will make the tablet useful in the business environment, where none of the existing tablets have succeeded yet, and probably will not for quite some time.

Accessories

Above are all expensive devices and a lot of people want to buy something not as expensive or want to protect their expensive gadgets. A good choice is always a protective enclosure for these expensive devices. Otterbox provides probably the best enclosures for most devices on the market, so that your kids can drop these on the floor without breaking them. For me they are a must have.

Headsets that come with most of these mobile devices are cheap and inferior as well, including the headsets from apple, except that these are not cheap. The Skullcandy Titan is a great alternative. At $39.95 it is cheaper than the apple headset, has far superior sound and still supports all the functions that the Apple headset has that comes with the device. Its shape also allows some noise reduction, making it a great device for people that want to get clear sound without environmental interference, but do not want to pay the $299.95 for a Bose Quite Comfort Headset that is the market leader, but does not come with a microphone, no remote control for the iPhone and is quite bulky to carry around. It is though the better device with an even richer audio experience for people that really enjoy high fidelity sounds.

Of course this is my personal opinion. Some may disagree. But I still hope that these hints help you to make your loved ones really happy this holiday season.


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