Look for tablets to fly off the shelves, while laptops may gather dust.
Research company DisplaySearch expects tablets to outsell laptop computers in North America for the first time, with Black Friday marking the surge that will take tablets over the top. The company predicts people will buy 21.5 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with 14.6 million laptops during the same period.
Black Friday deals will increase the temptation to pick up a tablet. Best Buy will throw in a $30 gift card with the purchase of a $200 Kindle Fire HD. Walmart will include a $75 gift card with a $400 iPad 2. Office Depot is expected to offer Google's Nexus 7 with 32 GB of storage for $230 — that's $20 off the usual price.
But don't expect huge deals on tablets like you'll see on televisions this year, said Paul Semenza, an analyst with DisplaySearch. Tablet buyers are more interested in features than deep discounts.
Semenza credits increased demand in part to the convenience of tablets for both business and home. More apps mean tablets can do more. Semenza also told TechNewsDaily that he is seeing tablets replace small TVs in consumers' bedrooms.
In addition, more than 70 percent of homes in the U.S. already have a PC, which means fewer people need to buy a new one.
Tablet specs have improved, making them a real option to replace laptops. Screen sizes have proliferated in the past year. In addition to Apple's dominant 9.7-inch iPad, there are now now have 7-inch models like the Nexus 7, as well 7.9-inch (iPad mini), 10.1-inch (Samsung Tab 2) and more. [See also: Why the iPad mini Could Be Better for You ]
Current premium models come with quad-core processors, which provide faster speeds and better graphics abilities, and upgrades like Bluetooth 3.0, for wireless data transfer speeds of up to 24 Mbits per second.
Most popular models, such as Apple's iPads, Google's Nexus line, Amazon's Kindle Fire and Samsung's Galaxy Tab, make it easy to access content through built-in stores (like the iTunes Store or Google Play). That's important to buyers, said Semenza. Tablets that haven't done as well, including efforts from HP and Blackberry maker Research in Motion, lack the ease-of-use and convenience that the more successful models offer.
It will take a few more years until worldwide sales of tablets eclipse laptops. NPD sees that happening in 2015, but even that estimate is faster than the group had previously projected.