Those Powerful Christmas Gifts

(Some of this was covered in a past podcast, but I wanted to revisit the idea).

What do the Kindle, the iPad, and Smartphones have in common with Gift Cards?

If you answered "flat and I'm sick of hearing of them as gift options" you're close, but I think you're missing the larger picture.  Though I too nearly burnt out on Kindlepadphone news over Christmas, despite my high news-capacity (news is mental jello to me), I believe there is something important about the sales of the Kindle, iPad, and Smartphones over the holiday.  In fact, I think there's a trend here that is worth exploring as it's going to affect technology use, and sales, and any jobs related to them.

We've all heard how Amazon's Kindle sales have been awesome. (I did my part in contributing to them as you saw).  Of course it seems that iPads are selling like crazy(at least in estimates) and have been doing well since the beginning.  Smartphones appear to be hot gifts.  So what is this trend beyond "technical stuff sells" that I'm all worked up over?

It's that these gifts have three things in common: they're portable items whose use is determined by the receiver and can be used instantly.  That's a trend, and you know how I love those.

The Kindle is a book reader (with an expanding line of extras), but you choose which books and publications you get.  iPads and Smartphones are basically computers, to set up as you want and need.  These items work differently depending on how the receiver chooses to use them.

These are also highly portable devices.  You can take them anywhere, use them when and where you want.  These gifts are not just gifts whose use you determine, you have the ability to determine when and where you use them – whereas some other technical gifts (like a game console) are limited by location.

Finally, these devices can be used near-instantly (though the phone may take some setup depending).  You can be ordering books, downloading apps, and annoying people with text messages in minutes. The power and portability come with instant usage.

Thus, to take this whole argument full circle, these gifts are in a way like gift cards – "here have this, do what you want with it."  Only unlike when they receive gift gift cards, people don't just nod politely and wonder what the hell they're going to buy, they know they're getting a bundle of power and they can use it right away.  I imagine a lot of Christmas was people tuning out the family to download "Angry Zombies versus Plant Birds" or whatever.

Why is this trend important?  Because I think it's very prominent this year and it's not going to change any time soon.  These devices will become more common (and more likely to be given), cheaper (and more likely to be given), and more widespread (and thus asked for).  These devices – and one like them – are a powerful holiday hit of power.

That means people that work on these devices, that sell them, and make content for them might expect some very Merry Christmases.  If you can have the big book, the big app, around a holiday, look out – because you can rack up those holiday sales.  This is probably the big consumer/Christmas trend for some time.

If anything like gift cards, they lack a certain something.  They're cool yet somehow ambiguous.  They're not exactly festive, even if they are wonderful.  They're not typical Christmas gifts, or typical gift-cards – they're potential and immediacy all in one, and they just don't "feel" like what we're used to seeing around the Holiday.

But get used to it – because I think this is the trend for some time to come.

Steven Savage