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Technology Stock Roundup: An iPad Christmas?

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Apple (AAPL - Free Report) and Microsoft (MSFT - Free Report) benefit from strong holiday sales, while Yahoo takes a gamble with Katie Couric.

Cook’s “iPad Christmas” Takes Off

Apple is poised to have a solid Christmas if initial sales are an indicator of what’s to come. Investors have been concerned about iPad sales since IDC reported that the iPad’s third-quarter market share had slipped to 29.6% from 40.2% in the third quarter of 2012. But Cook promised an “iPad Christmas” and that is what appears to be happening.

Consumer research company InfoScout dug through 90,000 Black Friday shopping receipts at Target and Wal-Mart (WMT - Free Report) stores to discover that iPads were the hottest-selling products at both stores. While the iPad Air 16GB, iPad mini 16GB and iPad Air 32GB models were the top three products at Target, the iPad mini 16GB was the hottest-selling product at Wal-Mart.

The only other popular tablet at Wal-Mart (both online and retail) was the RCA Android, which was well behind in seventh position. This is particularly encouraging since Apple has not offered any discounts this year. The other big positive for Apple (and concern for Android) was the fact that roughly 40% of these tablets were bought by Android smartphone users.

Research firm Canalysis expects market leaders Apple and Samsung to eventually lose share to a host of smaller-sized rivals, as well as traditional computing companies like Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Hewlett Packard (HPQ - Free Report) . But things look very good for Apple right now and the shares look ready to go through the roof.

Is Microsoft Nosing Ahead In the Console War?

Microsoft’s Xbox platform appears to have edged past Sony’s PlayStation platform on Black Friday. InfoScout found that the Xbox One and Xbox 360 were the top two products at both Target (TGT - Free Report) and Wal-Mart. Despite the fact that the Xbox One was the most expensive console at both stores, it acquired a 31% share of console sales. The Xbox 360 was second with 30% share, but helped by heavy discounting at Wal-Mart. 

Part of the reason that Sony (SNE - Free Report) fell back was its limited supply, indicating that it either miscalculated demand or was ill-equipped to cater to it. Still, the PS 3 was third at both stores, followed by the PS 4. Microsoft on the other hand, looked very well prepared, both with the new product and the old. It also appears to have read the market better (heavy discount at Wal-Mart).

Yahoo Getting Big on Content

Last week saw Yahoo signing up TV journalist Katie Couric to spearhead the development of in-house video content. Couric’s hire has been rumored for some time, so the announcement doesn’t really come as a surprise. However, while investors expressed optimism, the announcement has raised a few eyebrows.

Some analysts have said that Yahoo could be facing another identity crisis: soon after it declared itself to be a technology company and invested hard cash in technology (and people), it back-tracked, calling itself a media company and investing in content. So is it a technology company or a media company? Some pointed out that viewership of Couric’s TV show was declining, so how much good would her part-time efforts at Yahoo do? (Couric is expected to do roughly one show a month for Yahoo and also oversee development efforts starting 2014.)

But Yahoo may not be so off-track. Attracting ad dollars is a difficult thing to do and both the technology and content aspects are important. Yahoo properties have attracted the most traffic in the last few months but news-seekers ultimately stick with the provider that supplies the latest news in the most easy-to-consume way. To this end, Yahoo has now increased focus on original content, hiring technology writer David Pogue, news editor Megan Liberman and political columnist Matt Bai in quick succession.

Yahoo News is the most popular online news provider in the U.S., so the company could be looking to leverage this success to create a compelling video platform. Online video consumption is increasing very rapidly and TV-style news shows could soon be in demand. So hiring Couric (someone advertisers already recognize) could signal Yahoo’s baby steps in the right direction.



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Twitter Gaining on Facebook: Marketing agency Shift Marketing says that Twitter (TWTR - Free Report) with attract 30% of social media ad spending this holiday season. While this is still a far cry from Facebook’s (FB - Free Report) 70%, it is still a huge jump from its 2012 share of 10%. Twitter’s real time response is a big positive for retailers during the holiday season since they can come back with quick offers to Twitter’s real-time feedback. Gifts trending on Twitter can also be used to guag demand. Some of the top retailers trying the platform this season include Best Buy, Target, Mondelez and T-Mobile.

Microsoft Scroogling Chromebooks: Microsoft’s latest Scroogled uses a plot that’s similar in concept to the reality TV show Pawnstars- a woman tried to pawn a chromebook, which is refused because it wasn’t a “ real” laptop. Because “when you’re not connected it’s pretty much a brick.” One can wonder why Microsoft would want to target Chromebooks since many people haven’t even heard of it yet.

But Microsoft has reason to be disconcerted at the rate that everything is moving o the cloud. In fact, lots of services are increasingly being provided through the cloud, which makes the cheap chromebooks more attractive for enterprises. So until it can bring the same changes to Windows, it makes sense to poke fun at the adversary.

Both Xbox One and PS 4 are faulty: Some Xbox One users are complaining that their new consoles are unable to read discs. There is typically a grinding sound before the device stops. Microsoft is of course saying that only a few devices were affected, similar to what Sony said earlier when some of its users complained that a blue light was causing the devices to shut themselves off.  Microsoft is offering one of the launch games for free to pacify users.

Wal-Mart to Sell Chromecast: Google intends to sell as many Chromecasts as possible this holiday season. It is therefore stepping up distribution efforts. The devices were already selling through Amazon and Target and the company has now added Wal-Mart and Staples, as well as Verizon and Motorola websites.

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