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While HDTVs and laptops may be accustomed to seeing the best discounts during Black Friday, few devices will be more carefully watched this year than tablets. The iPad has been a coveted item since its debut, but over the past year the tablet landscape has become incredibly diverse and, in some ways, more competitive. While they hardly occupy the same sphere of quality as the iPad, the success of mid-level sub-$200 slates has given rise to a more complex deal-scape. It therefore wouldn't be surprising to find many consumers on the hunt for a tablet deal this Black Friday.
Unfortunately, the budget-friendly tablets — the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7, and Barnes & Noble NOOK HD — are unlikely to see any price cuts. It's rumored that these manufacturers already lose money with each tablet they sell, a strategic loss they intend to make back with consumer media purchases at their respective digital stores. Since they're supposedly already losing money though, will they opt to lose a little more?
Last year, we saw no Black Friday Kindle Fire deals whatsoever, and the only NOOKcolor deal was on a refurbished unit. However, this year is different. There is now greater competition amongst more manufacturers at this price point. (Even Windows 8 and Apple are supposedly going to join the mid-level tablet market later this month, with products priced around $200 to $250.) It stands to reason, then that these tablet makers will feel the heat, and want to take advantage of the increased volume of shoppers around Black Friday by at least offering some sort of incentive. We predict that their promotions will come in the form of bundled media credits, which the user can then redeem on digital goods at Amazon, Google Play, or Barnes & Noble. After all, it would encourage the user to begin spending there anyway.
At best, consumers might see a miniscule discount on these tablets — Amazon cut the Kindle Fire to $189 for MasterCard customers through the month of December last year — but we won't hold our breath. This price-cut didn't happen last year around Black Friday, and Amazon has already gouged a little further into their profits by cutting the price on its older-generation Fire tablet (which it simultaneously upgraded). Meanwhile, rumors swirl that Google is planning to offer a second Nexus 7 tablet before the holidays — and it'll clock in at $99. With both manufacturers already offering budget-friendly models year-round, will there be room for a special Black Friday fire sale? We're betting the answer is no.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the iPad may see better deals come Black Friday ... at least comparatively. Last year, Apple surprised us and discounted its famed slate during its Black Friday sale. But more importantly, so too did a handful of retailers — and at better prices. As such, we expect to see a similar trend for 2012.
We've included extensive details on what the iPad could do in our Apple predictions section, but the cheat sheet is this: the base model of the third-generation "new" iPad line could fall to as low as $449, while the entry-level iPad 2 could be cut to $299. Just be prepared to act quickly on these deals and get ready to hop in your car for the likely requisite in-store pickup.
However, when we looked at our archives to predict how low these slates might go, we noticed that most of the deals we've listed this year have been for used and refurbished units. While an interesting trend, Black Friday is largely about moving new inventory, so we unfortunately couldn't make any definitive predictions from this information. Still, we have a hunch that in terms of percent-off discounts from a tablet's original retail price, these other brand tablets may be the winners this holiday season.
As far as eBook readers go, discounts are more likely to come on older models. Last year, we only saw deals for previous-generation Amazon Kindles, so we don't expect to see a cut on the new, wildly-popular Paperwhite reader. Look to the Kindle Keyboard 3G, however, for a deal; if it matches last year's discount, it could drop to a very low $85. Meanwhile, on Cyber Monday, we found the Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch WiFi reader for as little as $80, down from $139. That's more than 40% off its original retail price as a preorder in May 2011. Barnes & Noble has since updated the Simple Touch to include a "GlowLight," priced at $119. If it sees a similarly strong discount, then it could fall to $69 this year. As for the entire fleet of Barnes & Noble eBook readers, the store offered a $25 gift card with all NOOK purchases in 2011, and we'd expect a similar offer this year, too.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Tablets and eBook Readers