IT admins: Prepare for the onslaught. The big shopping weekend is nearly here and it's expected to tip the scales so that tablet shipments overtake notebook shipments for the first time.
The holiday sales will help push tablet shipments in the fourth quarter to 21.5 million in North America, NPD said. That means tablet shipments will soar past notebook shipments, which NPD expects to reach just 14.6 million.
If you think you're prepared because you already support iPads, think again. This year it's not just iPads that people will be buying. Microsoft's Surface, Google's Nexus 7, and new models of Kindle Fire tablets are all relatively new to the market. People who have been waiting for the holiday sales to upgrade their existing tablet, buy their first tablet, or add a 7-inch tablet to their arsenal will be out in full force this weekend and throughout December.
This shopping season will be telling as to whether Apple will continue to dominate the tablet scene or whether the others can make a bigger dent. Apple's market share slipped in the third quarter – by 9 percent – with the Android tablets picking up the slack. But that was a tough quarter to read since clearly many people were holding off on iPad purchases until the Mini came out.
Even if that was the reason that Apple lost market share in the quarter, it faces more competition and a heavier push from those competitors. There are loads of deals out there. Best Buy is selling the 16 GB Kindle Fire HD for $200 plus a $30 gift card, with Staples, OfficeMax and others offering similar sales.
Microsoft is offering discounts in a limited fashion on its Surface covers ($50 off but only on the second one you buy and if you buy a "Surface Bundle," which Microsoft doesn't describe.).
Although some recent reports have said that the Nexus 7 was out of stock from Google, it appears to be available now, although without any hint about special offers.
Apple is offering a sale of its own. It hasn't said what it's offering, only that it's planning a "shopping event" on Friday in its stores.
This quarter won't be an anomaly. NPD expects that next year for the first time tablet shipments will pass notebook shipments for the year in North America, with 80 million tablets versus 63.8 million notebooks.
The shift is happening in North America first for a few reasons, including because some of the big names like Amazon and Google have focused their tablet efforts on the U.S. But by 2015, NPD expects tablets to out-ship notebooks worldwide.