LAPTOPSComputers are always the big item around the holidays. Will this year be different because of the iPad? Yes, fewer people will buy laptops, opting for iPads instead. But laptop PCs will still be enormously popular gifts this holiday season for three reasons. First, there's still much that they do better than an iPad. Second, laptops are cheaper than the iPad. Third, people fear change. (Well, not you. Other people!)
The workhorse laptop PC changes specs every few years. This year, we're proclaiming the 15"-16" notebook PC with a dual core processor and at least 4GB of RAM to be our yardstick. This is a very standard laptop, the kind they'd give you at work, or you'd buy for around the house or to give to your parents or college-bound kid. It's good for all everyday tasks.
It's a funny thing, but prices for this spec of laptop have had incredibly little variance. In the past 16 months, the best deal for this type of computer has never been less than $399 or more than $450, and that includes last Black Friday. Folks, you read it here first: everyday laptop prices have bottomed out at $400. For this Black Friday, we predict a modest low of $379, a mere 5% drop over the prices we've seen for over a year.
Less well equipped notebooks — 3GB of RAM or less, with inferior processors — will hit $199. That might sound incredible, but that's only the same as last Black Friday.
How we did last year with our laptop prediction? For the cheapie, we were off by 20%, but in the wrong direction. :-( However, that's when we like being wrong ... predicting $249 and watching a $200 Black Friday laptop deal roll in. For the more advanced laptop, we got it exactly right, to the dollar. ;-)
A year ago, netbooks (tiny, cheap laptops) were still among the hottest systems around. Times have changed. The 10" netbook from this year is identical to the 10" netbook from last year, and it costs the same, too: $200. The fact that netbooks have had so little innovation in the last year tells you just how little margin there is in a netbook. No doubt the advent of the iPad has pushed netbook research funds into tablet research.
For the 10" netbook, the gold standard, we predict a slight drop in price for Black Friday, to $179, a modest 10% drop from the prices we see every month. That's right, you'll find a deal for a real laptop for not much more than a netbook. The age of the netbook is over.
How well did we predict 10" netbook prices last year? We almost nailed it, getting within 4%. ;-)
If you're shopping for an iPad or MacBook, we have a more extensive Apple predictions piece coming up. Shopping for a desktop PC? Sorry, there just aren't many deals on Black Friday anymore for those.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Laptop PCs
- 15"-16" Laptop with Dual Core Processor & 4GB RAM for $379
- Basic Laptop for $199
- 10" Netbook for $179