Tablets Attain ‘Must-Have’ Status for Holidays

iPad Boxes

iPad BoxesTablets, of course, are the Tickle Me Elmo, Cabbage Patch Kids  must-have gift this holiday season.

Market researcher IDC predicts about 62.5 million tablets will be sold this year, up from just 18 million last year. And while the iPad has had a stranglehold on the market, the Kindle Fire—at less than half the price, but also with a smaller screen, less oomph and fewer apps—has bolted out of the gate.

Market tracker IHS says Amazon will ship 3.9 million Kindle Fires in the December quarter, which would give the online retailer a 13.8 percent share of the global tablet market, though it has been released only in the United States. Analysts at Piper Jaffray predict Kindle Fire sales of 4 million sales by Christmas; Forrester says 5 million.

Meanwhile, Maritz Research finds two reasons for tablets’ brisk sales: repeat buyers and the appeal to people across income categories. Even unemployed people are buying them. In a survey of 2,500 people conducted in November, when asked whether they planned to buy a tablet in the next six months, of those who said yes, a third had already owned a tablet and 11 percent had bought a tablet in the past three months. (Were they buying them as gifts? Who knows?) The survey also found that 14 percent of respondents who had recently bought a Kindle Fire were unemployed. That number was 13 percent for Galaxy Tab buyers and 10 percent for buyers of the iPad 2.

Forbes quotes Michael Allenson, a senior strategic consulting director at Maritz, as saying:

Given that we’ve been in an economic downturn for almost three years, it seems people are aggressively embracing these devices.

And he adds:

They are not cheap items.

The Kindle Fire retails for $199;  the Galaxy Tab $400 to $600, depending on retailer and amount of memory; and the iPad 2 $500 to $700, depending on memory.

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