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Will Microsoft and Others Challenge the Apple Tablet Hegemony This Holiday Season?

Sterling Wong

After hitting a record high of $702.10 on September 19, Apple (AAPL) shares proceeded to lose about 25% of their value through November 16.

The stock recovered on Monday, however, with Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White calling the sell-off "insanely insane," with Apple having "new blockbuster products for the holiday season."

"This holiday season will belong to Apple, as the product lineup has never been stronger with a recent refresh across 80% of the company's portfolio, combined with spending trends in the consumer electronics world that favor areas such as tablets and smartphones," said White, according to Apple Insider.

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White cited a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) survey, in which 16% of US adult respondents said tablets were the most desired gifts, compared to the 10% who wanted TVs and the 8% who hoped for smartphones.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll corroborated the findings of the CEA, with 33% of shoppers poll saying that tablets were on the top of their purchase list this holiday season.

However, it seems like Apple might be facing tougher tablet competition this year. Of the 33% polled by Reuters who displayed interest in buying tablets, only 8% put the iPad Mini as their first choice. A similar 8% said the tablet they wanted was Microsoft's (MSFT) Surface.

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The poll result certainly should comfort Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who just last week told a French publication that his company's recently-introduced flagship tablet has had a "modest" sales start. (Bloomberg pointed out later that Ballmer was referring to Surface's "modest" distribution, since it has so far only debuted in a handful of countries.)

Apple, of course, also faces competition from the likes of Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire and Fire HD, Barnes & Noble's (BKS) Nook HD and Nook HD+, and a slew of other Android (GOOG)-powered tablets, such as the Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

"What's different about this holiday season is that consumers have not just more choice, but really good choices," Sarah Rotman Epps, a consumer computing trends expert at Forrester, told the New York Times. "There have been many iPad wannabes but no real quality alternatives, and now there are several."

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Tero Kuittinen, an independent mobile analyst, added, "Apple left a lot of room for rivals to grow."

The good news for Apple is that while adults might not be as enthusiastic as they were in previous years about the Apple product slate, children seem to have picked up the slack. According to another study, this one by Nielsen, some 48% of kids ages 6-12 surveyed want an iPad for the holidays.

In fact, of the top five most desired gift items of respondents, four were Apple products, with the iPod Touch (36%), iPod Mini (36%) and the iPhone (33%) coming after second-ranked Nintendo (NTDOY) Wii U (39%). Clearly, the appeal of Apple remains dominant among children. Looks like Apple will be hoping that kids are able to convince their parents to get them what they want for Christmas.