By Larry Reich
Will this be a digital XMAS for Santa and the children of the world? According to Walmart, don’t expect much. They claim there are no hot digital products this Christmas, and predicting lower to flat sales this quarter (as it was the last quarter for digital products at Walmart). But yes, Virginia, there are some products that will shine underneath this year’s tree. Here is my list of the top five products (in no particular order):
- AppleTV 4: This is the newest version of Apple’s one time “hobby product” ( you remember, both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook called AppleTV Apple’s “hobby” for the last five years). Here’s why I think it will grow into a mainstay of the living room. Start with games and the iTunes Store. They are now both available on the new box (it’s now slight bigger). Apps will drive your selection of content and game playing on your TV, as it does on your iPhone and iPad. Second, the new remote now includes SIRI voice technology, so you can search for your favorite movie, TV show or podcast by using voice commands. It’s rather flexible and easy to use (according to reviews). The remote also acts as a controller for gaming, with sensors built-in to measure speed and position. Finally, Apple made a change to the iTunes App Store that I think is significant. They created a SHOPPING category. They are taking all the RETAIL and RESELLER Apps from numerous categories, and putting them all in one place. It’s like having a MALL on your TV. Besides that, I expect that some of these Apps will grow in features and interactivity. Imagine using SIRI to ask a Nordstrom’s App to find you all the “black cocktail dresses in medium”. Now that’s a game changer (especially at $149 for 32 GIG and $199 for 64 GIGs). That’s something that Amazon’s interactive Bluetooth speaker called Echo can’t do.
- Tablets are back! Both Apple, with their new iPad Pro, and the recent debut of the Microsoft Surface 4 will both have a good holiday season. It’s not for everybody, as prices for these premium products are rather pricey, but if early indications from my reseller friends is any predictor, we should see a reinvigoration of the category that has been slumping for the last six quarters. Both have new version of their operating systems, and the new iPad Pro has a $99 “Pencil” (pressure sensitive stylus) that shows great promise for creatives of all types. There is a growing list of Apps that will take advantage of this.
- Star Wars is the FORCE to be reckon with this holiday season. The debut of the next chapter of this venerable story debuts a week before Christmas. And the hottest “digital toy” is and will be “BB-8”, the robot that follows in in the tracks of R2D2. It’s about $150 dollars, and is basically a ball with a head. But it’s interactivity from a smartphone or tablet looks to be a lot of fun. This Disney product was created by SPHERO, a Denver company that has been making similar consumer robots and software.
- 4K for less! LED TV pricing continues to drop. And now 4K resolution TV’s are starting to take the pricing slot of traditional LED’s. There is still not a lot of 4K content out there (but it’s coming). Look to companies like VIZIO to break the $1,000 retail price with a 60” 4K sets very soon (perhaps in a few weeks). You can already find 40+” 4K sets for around $500. And if not VIZIO, other off brands will follow like JVC, or TCL from China. Speaking of TCL, they have a great deal at Costco selling a 40” LED set with a ROKU video player built in for $279. To think that 40” TV’s use to be $5,000-$10,000 only 7-10 years ago.
- For the mobile set, there is always some deal on mobile Bluetooth speakers, earphones, and mobile batteries. In fact, that would make a great combination buy to put in a box for your favorite smartphone owner. You can probably create a bundle of three quality products for under $100. Talk about mobile, there is also drones for all price points. Just be careful where you fly.
Larry Reich is a consumer product analyst, sales and marketing consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org