Bargain hunters should champion the early adopters, who buy new gadgets at top price as soon as they are available and lower the prices for the rest of us who wait a while. While we may pant over your iPad, we will lord it over you when we pick up one of your refurbs for a steal or get a next generation model that's monumentally better, and pay less than you did for your new one.
But there are some gifts on display this holiday season that will make losers out of all of us. They are hot now, but technology cycles are so fast now that these gadgets and gizmos are destined to be doorbusters today, and doorstoppers tomorrow.
We have traveled with the Ghost of Christmas future to find out which of this season's big sellers are in for a final hurrah. Most of these gifts won't even be good as cast-offs in the next two or three years as they become incompatible with emerging technologies.
The pathway to success of GPS is ... recalculating. For the past three or four years, GPS units have graced the front page of many a Black Friday catalog as a top draw, but as navigation services become more standard in our cars and on our smart phones — arguably providing a richer experience — don't be surprised if the stand-alone GPS unit end up lost; screaming, "Make a U-Turn when able!" for all eternity.
The new Color Nook notwithstanding, the eReader is an early adapter stand-alone gadget that's going to be swept away by major changes in tablet computing in the next few years. Even those that have the ability to play music, games and browse the web are not going to seem robust enough to compete. If you love eInk monochrome displays, don't fret! What's coming next should involve Pixel Qi screens that can toggle between full color and outdoor readable eInk displays, which means you'll get your color screens and your apps as well as the long battery life of monochrome displays.
You should be able to score huge Blu-ray deals this year, maybe even as low as $49, but that's going to get you about as exciting a prospect as buying a new VCR. It's all about streaming now, and Internet-connected HDTVs are becoming the norm. Beyond that, it's all about multi-taskers — boxes that can play video games in addition to any kind of disk and connect to any streaming service, until those items get integrated and they go out of businesses as well (see #4).
Google TV, Apple TV, Roku and Boxee
Stand-alone devices that connect your HDTV to the Internet are incredibly popular this year, with new entrants from almost every big player. The best news about them is that they are so tiny you won't have a hard time disposing of them on recycling day. In the not-so-distant future these services will be built right into HDTVs (some models already sport Google TV), which means when you go looking for a new TV you'll have to pay attention to the operating system just like when you look for a computer. The only exception is Apple TV, which won't likely be installed in an HDTV that quickly, because of Apple's preference to build their own hardware for an end-to-end user experience. Instead you'll see Apple and other manufacturers hop on board Wifi Direct which will allow you to beam content direct to a TV with WiFi.
The netbook hasn't yet been killed off by the iPad, but it faces tough times in the next three years. Not only will tablets of any kind push the low-powered portable netbook to the trash heap, but ultra-portable computers with better specs and similar sizes will be stepping in to provide more horsepower without doubling the cost. With better options coming from both sides, it's hard to see the netbook finding many friends.
Video Games on a Disc
Be prepared for a flashing "Game Over" to come the land of video game discs and the used game market in the next few years. Manufacturers have been pushing digital downloads for a while now. Want even more proof? Check out OnLive which doesn't even require a powerful console or computer to play the latest games.
HD Pocket Camcorders
Goodbye Flip, Kodak Zi8, Sonny Bloggie and any other "Pocket HD Video Camera" which take good video but poor still pictures. Soon we'll have cameras that can do both at once as a standard feature, at the same price. And that's only for those that haven't given up still cameras and video cameras altogether for the built-in features of their smart phones.
LCD HDTVs with CCFL
Tube televisions have disappeared faster than a plate of cookies around a mall Santa, and next to go is what people commonly refer to now as LCDs, which have CCFL as the back light source. What's coming in its place? LED is the new standard, which provides a better picture over CCFL, DLP or Plasma, and with it you also get a much slimmer HDTV without the need to give up on the actual size of your screen. Right now you'll still pay a premium of a few hundred for an LED unit, but that price is bound to come down over the holiday shopping season.
You thought these were already obsolete? It's astounding to many techies that these are still on wish lists for 2010 — and more astounding that discount retailers will use low-priced desktop models to lure in customers on days like Black Friday. But its absolutely inconceivable that any home user will still be be tethered to a desktop in 2013. Home users will either graduate to tablets or to laptops, and consumer desktops become harder and harder to find. On the other hand, expect to see an upswing in users demand for large monitors, keyboards and mice over the next few years as they try to replicate the desktop experience.
Once the go-to stocking stuffer for anyone who used as computer these portable drives replaced CDs and disks as the easiest way to transfer files. We expect that in a few years plugging a thumbdrive in to transfer a file, instead of using a cloud storage service like Dropbox, will feel as antiquated as using a floppy disc does today. The early tablets like the iPad don't even have a USB port anyway!
Josh Smith is a freelance writer who writes frequently about technology and consumer electronics and is based in Ohio. Follow him on Twitter — @josh_smith. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.