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The dealnews 2009 Black Friday Predictions

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Has it already been a year? With just over 100 days left until Christmas, we're kicking off the holidays at dealnews with our Black Friday deal predictions, compiled by myself with the help of our expert staff.

It's our second season predicting Black Friday's best deals, and we should tell you whether our predictions from last year were worth the electrons they were printed on. Adjusting for missing deals — we predicted free shipping at OfficeMax, for example, but OfficeMax skipped Black Friday entirely — we're happy to report that our 2008 accuracy rate was 82%. (See last year's piece.) Pardon me for bragging ... that's much better than my grades in college.

Three quick clarifications before we start prognosticating. First, these are predictions of the best deals for the Black Friday season. They're the lowest of the lows, not averages. Second, some of these deals will involve mail-in rebates. However, the good news is that most won't. Best Buy, OfficeMax, and Walmart have each given up on mail-in rebates after numerous customer complaints. Third, we're predicting that these deals occur during "Black Friday Season," a dealnews euphemism for mid-November to Cyber Monday. On to the predictions.

Computers are always the big item around the holidays, and netbooks (those tiny, cheap laptops) are still among the hottest systems around. We have two netbook predictions. A low-end netbook — 9" screen, small SSD drive, Linux OS or better — will hit $129. A more useful netbook — 10" screen, 1GB RAM, decent size hard drive, and Windows XP or better — will cost $199. You may find them for even less, even free, with a two-year wireless broadband commitment (we saw one of those back in July).

Want a traditional notebook with a 15" or 16" screen? Deals have bottomed out, staying around $400 for the last 12 months. This Black Friday season, look for a 15" or 16" laptop to hit $249 ... a terrific deal, but not much lower than last year's best. Of course, it won't be particularly well equipped. Those looking for something with a little more juice won't be left out in the cold, as we predict you'll find a loaded 15" or 16" Intel Core 2 Duo laptop with at least 4GB of RAM and a big hard drive for $399.

And what about desktop PCs? Last year was dominated by laptop computers, and this year will be even more so. Expect few if any noteworthy desktop PC deals on Black Friday.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Laptop PCs

  • Netbook with 9" screen, SSD, Linux for $129
  • Netbook with 10" screen, 1GB RAM, hard drive, Windows for $199
  • Basic 15" Intel or AMD Dual Core laptop for $249
  • Well-equipped 15.4" Intel Core 2 Duo Laptop with 4GB RAM for $399

As far as audio/video is concerned, high-definition Blu-ray disc players will take a leading role in this year's sale. That's ironic, since Blu-ray is a technology that may be already approaching irrelevance: Geeks say, why buy Blu-ray when you can stream 1080p movies online? Non-techies say, why buy Blu-ray when it offers no obvious advantage over DVD?

Maybe that's why the bottom fell out of Blu-ray players over the past three months. We've seen numerous deals at $100, a 45% drop compared to April and May. So a $100 Blu-ray player isn't exciting enough for Black Friday.

Based on the data alone — examining recent price trends and drops on Blu-ray from last year and HD-DVD the year before — Blu-ray players should hit $69. But we're going to go out on a limb and predict that a Blu-ray player will hit an earth-shattering $49. It's simply a deal that Blu-ray needs, as a platform. Oh, and one more thing to back up our prediction: we're totally cheating. There's already been a $50 Blu-ray deal, back in July from a small retail chain based in Madison, Wisconsin. (Blu-ray has totally taken over the World Dairy Expo.)

Like last year, we expect some retailers will take the package approach, bundling a name-brand (Sony, Samsung, Sharp) Blu-ray player and Blu-ray movies for $99. As for Blu-ray movies themselves, expect to find last year's titles for $5 (e.g., Iron Man) and this summer's blockbusters for $10 (e.g., Transformers 2) around Black Friday.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Blu-ray

  • Blu-ray player for $49
  • Blu-ray player / movie bundle for $99
  • Blu-ray movies you actually want from $5

As we've said before, the best time to buy a new TV is usually around the holidays. We spent a lot of time comparing current price trends on TVs this year with the trends that led up to Black Friday of last year. Our conclusion is that prices will drop just as much as last year.

First, some advice. Don't look for a 720p set to save money anymore. Sure, most people don't really need a higher-resolution 1080p TV set. However, 1080p TVs have fallen so much in price, there's not much difference anymore between a 720p and a 1080p set of the same size.

Onto the predictions. There will be plenty of HDTVs on sale, but the best bang for your buck will be a budget 46" to 47" 1080p LCD TV. Prices are down about 25% from one year ago. Expect to see a 46" or 47" 1080p LCD TV for $599. If you're looking for a better TV, like one that features a 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rate (useful for sports), expect to plunk down a lot more. We expect to see a 120Hz 46" or 47" set for $899.

Don't overlook 40" and 42" 1080p LCD HDTVs. They've plummeted recently, and this Black Friday, you can expect them to drop to $449.

Want something larger? Good news: Name-brand 52" 120Hz or 240Hz 1080p LCD HDTVs have plummeted by an astonishing 40% since a year ago. We predict they'll get even lower during the Black Friday season, hitting $1,049.

Want the big screen but don't need 120Hz? Normal (60Hz) 52" 1080p LCD HDTVs have basically cost the same for the past year. That's why we're predicting a relatively modest $999 as the best of the 2009 Black Friday season for this class of TV.

Of course, we can't leave off plasma. There are far fewer plasma TV models than LCD models, and thus far fewer deals. Fortunately, 50" 1080p plasma HDTVs are down about 30% compared to a year ago. Expect this Black Friday to yield a 50" 1080p plasma TV for $899.

Before you buy a TV on Black Friday, consider this: For the last two years, the best time to buy a good TV wasn't on Black Friday. It was in December. High-end, name-brand 120Hz LCD TVs were 8%-12% cheaper last December than at any point in November. The general rule is, Black Friday is the best time of the year to buy no-name TVs. The following weeks are the best time to buy high-end TVs. You'll know it's a big deal when dealnews' own cheapskate editors bring out their wallets and start buying TVs ... keep an eye on our Twitter feeds to see what we buy.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for LCD & Plasma TVs

  • 40"-42" 1080p LCD HDTV for $449
  • 46"-47" 1080p LCD HDTV for $599
  • 46"-47" 1080p LCD HDTV, 120Hz or 240Hz for $899
  • 52" 1080p LCD HDTV for $999
  • 52" brand-name 1080p LCD HDTV, 120Hz or 240Hz for $1,049
  • 50" 1080p plasma HDTV for $899

We're posting this a day before Apple announces a new product for the fall. Whatever Apple puts out will likely be on your shopping list. Although Apple products aren't heavily discounted, you can expect to save a little. For the umpteenth year in a row, Apple will have its very own Black Friday sale. It'll be in stores and online, but beat the crowds and take advantage of Apple's sitewide free shipping (normally a $49 minimum applies). As for the deals, expect Apple to repeat last year's specials, slicing up to 10% off its newest products. In addition, they've historically offered from 5 to 10% off iMac and MacBook purchases, as well as modest discounts on select accessories, peripherals, and software.

Large capacity hard drives have fallen in price by 50% since a year ago. We predict that this Black Friday will be a great time to buy that external hard drive you've been keeping your eye on. 5 cents per GB will be the magic number, so expect to find 1TB USB 2.0 external hard drives for $49.

Name-brand 24" LCD monitors have plummeted by 40% over the past year. Expect to see one on Black Friday for $145. You'll see a smaller name-brand 22" LCD monitor for $99, but those haven't dropped much at all in the past year. For either size LCD, look for better deals in December and January. That's when they were 15% cheaper last year, compared to Black Friday.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for iPods, Macs, hard drives, and LCD monitors

  • Free shipping no min at Apple Store online
  • The newest Apple product for 10% off
  • iMac and MacBook computers for 5% to 10% off
  • 1TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive for $49
  • Name-brand 22" LCD Monitor for $99
  • Name-brand 24" LCD Monitor for $145

Finding a deal on the Nintendo Wii during the holidays has traditionally been about as easy as finding a photo of Sasquatch kissing the Loch Ness Monster. Well, that's no more. The Wii is in-stock everywhere, sales have slowed, and Wii consoles have been discounted time and time again over the past several months. We are happy to report that we predict that the Nintendo Wii will be $199 on Black Friday. (We're unhappy to report that we've already seen this deal before, twice, but retailers aren't likely to discount the $249 Wii more aggressively until after Black Friday.)

Digital picture frames are always one of the hottest items during the holiday season, and we expect demand for them to be just as high again this year. The best values are on 8" to 9" digital picture frames, which cost about the same as 7" frames. We expect you'll find an 8" to 9" frame for $30.

Budding cinematographers will be able to purchase an entry-level HD camcorder for $60. It'll be one of those cheap, basic flash-based models, however, with no optical zoom. For more serious video, expect to find a 1080p HD camcorder with 8GB or more of storage and better optics for $349.

Contrary to expectations, GPS prices don't drop much on Black Friday. Last year, GPSs were more expensive on Black Friday than they were in October and September. This year, you'll see more of the same. Entry-level, no-name GPS units will hit $49. Similar models from Garmin or TomTom will cost $69. A well-equipped GPS with a widescreen LCD, text-to-speech, and Bluetooth will go as low as $95. Those sound unexciting? That's because we've already seen those prices this year. If you can wait, the best time to buy will be next April: Deals during April of 2009 were 25% less than they were on Black Friday of 2008.

One last thing on GPS navigators: Consider a factory-refurbished GPS, which will cost 10% to 25% less than a new one. There's a huge selection.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for GPSs, Digital Photo Frames, and HD Camcorders

  • Nintendo Wii Game Console for $199
  • 8"-9" digital picture frame for $30
  • Basic HD 720p camcorder for $60
  • 1080p HD camcorder, 8GB or better for $349
  • entry-level GPS units for $49
  • entry-level Garmin or TomTom GPS units for $69
  • widescreen GPS with Bluetooth, TTS for $95

Last but not least, there will be hundreds of deals on low-cost computer and technology items. Expect to score 802.11n wireless routers, PC cases, antivirus software, Secure Digital cards, USB flash drives, and more — all for $0 after rebate(s). Many of these are likely to be found at Office Depot and Staples, which traditionally waive the $50 minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping around Black Friday. (Free shipping on a Sharpie is kind of a holiday tradition here at dealnews.) Don't expect much from OfficeMax; it sat out Black Friday completely last year.

Despite Black Friday's focus on tech items, those not looking for electronics won't be out of luck. You can expect to find best-of-year coupons from the likes of Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Timberland, Aeropostale, American Eagle, and dozens of others. Other online retailers are likely to team up with Google Checkout or PayPal to offer special discounts. For high-end retailers, wait until the second week of December when strong sales and coupons roll in from the likes of Kiehl's, Gucci, and others. One place you can ignore is Target.com. Every year, Target's Black Friday deals are in stores only and not online.

I'm sad to report that there won't be any deals on one popular item. Want to buy a new iPhone 3GS? Sorry, it won't be on sale. However, AT&T might have refurbs available; if so, expect to pay $129 for the 16GB and $199 for the 32GB.

As usual, you can expect some very aggressive deals this Black Friday season. The bulk of them will be referenced in our special Black Friday deals section. The best advice I can give you is the same I gave you last year: Be choosy about when you buy.

Dan de Grandpre is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of dealnews, named the #1 Black Friday Site for 2008 by PC Magazine, one of the Best Black Friday Web Sites of 2008 by PC World, and a Top 100 Most Useful Sites on the Internet by MSN.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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