Midweek Tech Scan: The e-reality of Thanksgiving, circa 2011

Too bad those colonists who celebrated their first Thanksgiving on American soil didn't have credit cards, especially on the day after that first Turkey Day.

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iPad 2

Too bad those colonists who celebrated their first Thanksgiving on American soil didn't have credit cards, especially on the day after that first Turkey Day.

It’s a good time to think about the reality of the holiday, circa 2011: a four-day period to kick back, gather together with your family, watch some football, and get ready for the central event of the season: Black Friday. I’ll leave the moral implications of that to others. 

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, was for a few years the one day where the country united to blow as much money as possible in a single 24-hour period.  Unfortunately, some have desecrated this most American of events by offering Black Friday sales as early as last week.  But for those convinced that November 25 is their day to find that Chippendale bicycle seat cover or 150-inch HDTV they’ve always coveted, I offer you probably the best website that pulls together most major retailers’ Black Friday ads together: The Black Friday.com

The site has ad listings for virtually all major retailers, and each ad has a list of sales items. Click on an item and it takes you to the actual on-line ad.  For the northwest, here are ads for REI, Harry & David, and Amazon. I looked for a Nordstrom Black Friday ad in vain, however.

I wish the site had some clever way to index each store’s offering, either by type of item or manufacturer. Unfortunately, it’s not to be, but simply having the ads for a few hundred retailers is a pretty good start for hungry shoppers.

On another site, dealighted.com, there’s a list of Costco items for sale but I'm not sure if they're specifically Black Friday-related.

AT&T is joining the Black Friday madness with a 1-cent sale on several of their top Windows 7 and Android phones and tablets (and no, not the iPhone).  You can go now to their Black Friday website for a preview of what’s up for sale. Those of us in Seattle can start buying early as of Thursday evening at 9 p.m.; the site goes live at midnight East Coast time. Just remember: when you buy those new phones, you also are buying a 2-year contract.

Not to be outdone, Amazon is offering its own slew of 1-cent phones during the Black Friday festivities.

For you coffee drinkers, there’s a nice Black Friday freebie from Seattle’s Best Coffee. Visit the company’s Facebook page to receive a free sample of their Level 3 coffee mailed home: enough to brew a 10-cup lot of coffee. Only the first 100,000 need apply.

Among the hot items predicted for the holiday season are the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire and the $249 Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet: both 7-inch digital book readers gone multimedia.  If you’re thinking about getting either one, there are literally hundreds of reviews for each item and comparisons galore.  Among the best, in my opinion, is this posting on ZD Net by Seattle’s own Matthew Miller in The Mobile Gadgeteer blog, which he co-authors with Joel Evans. Here’s his take on both devices.

Certainly, the Kindle Fire looks likely to be at least a number 2 choice for consumers in the tablet market  — the Apple iPad being overwhelmingly a clear first choice.  According to a release from analyst firm ChangeWave Research, a survey of 3,043 North American consumers shows that 2 percent of those responding had pre-ordered the device, 5 percent were very likely to buy one. Another 12 percent said they were somewhat likely to buy.

On my part, as I’ve indicated here previously, I’m quite partial to a 7-inch tablet over a 10-inch model.  I found the 10-inch tablet (I own a first-generation iPad) much more fun to use at home than to take on the road, but want a 7-inch tablet that I can take with me on the road. 

Apparently, I’m not alone according to a survey released this past week by McKinsey and Co., and referenced by CNN Money.  The survey found that most tablet usage, specifically iPads, stay at home, and most are used in living rooms for many tasks formerly available only on regular computers.

So when it comes to 7-inch tablets, I looked at both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet — and found both wanting.  I want a tablet without limitations, or without techie workarounds to make these devices “almost as good” as a tablet. 

I thought I had a winner in Samsung’s new 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab: it’s certainly the right size and has a great screen, powerful processor and good memory.  (Here’s how it stacks up against the Amazon Kindle, according to eWeek.)

I was willing to pay $399, twice the price of the Kindle Fire, for the Galaxy Tab. But something strange happened when I opened an Internet browser on the tablet: the screen bright dropped shockingly low, perhaps down 30 percent from the tablet’s main screen, and there was nothing in the tablet’s settings to brighten it up.

My conclusion: I already own the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, the older version, with an add-on N2A Card that converts the Nook Color into a full featured tablet. It operates a bit slower than I like — watching You Tube video and similar on-line video can play back in fits and starts because of an underpowered processor — but until someone comes up with a better device in the 7-inch line, I’m staying put and using what I have.

Another hot device, Microsoft’s Kinect, a game controller for the Xbox that allows voice and body motions instead of hand-held sensors to operate games, is on the verge of becoming available for PCs. In a blog posted by Craig Eisler, general manager of the Kinect for Windows team, there will be a Kinect version optimized for Windows systems that include an ability to share a USB port with other devices, and a “near” mode that will allow the device to interact with people at close range. 

The company will also release a Kinect software development kit (SDK), essentially the computer programming code for the device, allowing hackers to hack the device freely and legally. That could bring some significant and innovative developments for a device that is already being looked at as the center of Microsoft’s new initiative to use the Xbox and peripherals like Kinect to take over the living room TV entertainment center.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.


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