Like it or not, the countdown to the holidays has begun. No sooner were the Halloween cobwebs hung across our front hedges than the warnings started coming that our shopping days until Christmas were numbered. Whether you're eager to get in line (or online) early, or wondering which companies are positioned to claim the most sales, Minyanville has profiled the most in-demand gadgets this season.
10. Microsoft's Xbox Kinect
During a year when video game consoles saw their weakest sales since 2006, Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox Kinect was breaking sales records, not just within the gaming industry, but for all electronics devices (according to Guinness) in the two months following its launch. The controller-free device, with full-body tracking technology, beat numbers previously set with the debuts of the iPad, iPhone (AAPL) and Amazon Kindle (AMZN). Consoles start at US$300.
9. iPod Touch
Like video game consoles, MP3 players are getting phased out -- with some exception given to Apple's iPod touch -- and that's thanks to its nonmusic-playing capabilities. If kids love anything more than video games, it's playing them on the go. With games that can be purchased for under a buck (compared with US$40-plus), apps are where it's at. Traditional consoles are clearly no match for portable play. Expect to pay US$150 to US$200. (For related content, see Four Reasons Why iTV Will Be the Easiest Money Apple's Ever Made.)
8. Klipsch Image S4 Headphones
Chances are, most people on your holiday list are walking around with substandard earbuds. Indianapolis loudspeaker outfit Klipsch carries one of the highest-rated pairs on the market -- noted for their superior sound performance, noise cancelation, bass response, and comfortable oval-shaped ear tips -- and they go for about US$80.
7. Kodak Playsport
Kodak's (EK) take on the now-retired Flip camera is this pocket-sized digital minicamcorder that records 1080p HD video and sells for about US$150. Its name, reminiscent of the old Sony Sports Walkman, encourages the recording of active pursuits -- whether atop a mountain or 10 feet under water.
6. Roku 2 XS
This diminutive box media center, with a small price point to match (the entry level setup is US$60), works with your TV to stream content from Netflix (NFLX), Hulu, Amazon, Pandora (P), and dozens of other online media libraries. It includes a dedicated Angry Birds channel, which you can play on the remote that doubles as a Wii-like motion game controller.
5. Samsung Galaxy Nexus
The first member of the Android (GOOG) smartphone family to run on its much ballyhooed Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 operating system is the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Exclusively on the Verizon (VZ) network, the phone will bring "an entirely new look and feel to Android" with its 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED display... just in time for the holidays. The US price has not yet been disclosed.
4. iPhone 4S
Apple loyalists quickly recovered after their hopes were dashed for the iPhone 5 and settled happily for the 4S. According to Apple, it was the company's most successful phone launch to date. As far as its demand for the holidays, it's the newest iPhone. Enough said. US$200-US$400 each. (See also Will Apple's iPhone 4S Have Its Own Antennagate?)
3. Barnes & Noble Nook Touch Reader
With ebook readers consistently ranked one of this holiday season's must-have items, Barnes & Noble's (BKS) second-generation Nook (US$250) is a top shopping contender. The high resolution touch screen and compact design along with a doable price point helped it earn PC Magazine's Editor's Choice for ebook readers.
2. Kindle Fire
Since the steep sticker price of the iPad 2 will bust the 99 percent's holiday budget, an affordable and respectable alternative can be found in Amazon's full-color, seven-inch, multitouch screen Kindle Fire. CNET's review of the Kindle Fire put it best: "In the world of tablets, there are great products and there are cheap products, but very few great, cheap products." The tablet readers are priced at US$199. (Also read Is This the End for Amazon Bulls?)
1. iPad 2
If the iPad is the King of Tablets, Apple will undoubtedly reign supreme this Christmas. No single electronics item will be more coveted than this slimmer, souped-up iPad update with iOS 5 and iCloud access. Though now facing some plucky competition from Android, the iPad enjoys a healthy 67 percent of the tablet market share with over 32 million units sold since its 2010 launch. Prices start at US$499.
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