When it comes to gadgets, the first half of 2011 has been crowded. Barnes and Noble (NYSE:BKS) tried to change the e-reader game with its new Nook Color, a device that looked to bridge the gap between the Kindle and iPad markets. Speaking of tablets, Hewlett-Packard (NASDAQ:HPQ), Motorola (NYSE:MMI) and Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) all released tablet computers to try to fell Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad. So far, they’ve all failed to even make a dent. Nintendo (PINK:NTDOY) released its glasses-free portable gaming system, the Nintendo 3DS, and felt the sting of consumer indifference towards 3D technology.
All these products have played second fiddle to the iPhone, whose popularity reached new heights after coming to the Verizon (NYSE:VZ) network, and the aforementioned iPad. The second model of the iPad was released in March, and Apple sold more than 9 million of the tablets during the second quarter. 2011 has been, without question, Apple’s game.
The back half of the year looks to be as busy as the first, though. Here are the big gadgets on the horizon, some of which might even pull some attention away from Apple’s portable phenomena.
Nokia Windows Phone 7
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been having a great year in gadgets. Its Xbox 360 game console, now in its sixth year on shelves, has been the best-selling gaming machine each month this year, and its hands-free motion controller, the Kinect, hit more than 10 million sales by the end of the first quarter.
The company’s new Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android competitor, the mobile phone operating system Windows Phone 7, hasn’t been doing as hot. Neither has Microsoft’s newest partner, the beleaguered mobile phone manufacturer Nokia (NYSE:NOK), whose stock is trading at low levels not seen since 1998.
The companies’ first collaborative product, codenamed Sea Ray, has started showing up in leaked pictures and videos on the Internet, but so far it’s unknown how it compares to popular competitors like HTC’s Thunderbolt and the iPhone. Word is the device will heavily leverage the Xbox brand, however, so it might find favor with consumers this fall.
Amazon Kindle Tablet
As mentioned above, Apple’s stranglehold on the tablet market is absolute. Consumers don’t want tablet computers; they want iPads. If anyone can challenge the company, though, it’s Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
All signs point to the company delivering a Kindle tablet this holiday. The device will be on par with Apple’s iPad in terms of raw functionality. What will give Amazon its leg up over Apple is the company’s strength as a retail presence. The Amazon name carries as much if not more cache with consumers than the App Store and iTunes, so consumers will trust in Amazon’s wares for e-books, music, and all types of media.
Word is Amazon also will undercut Apple on price, offering up the Kindle tablet for $449 – $50 less than the lowest-tier iPad.
Sony PlayStation Vita
The portable gaming business has changed dramatically in the past two years. Where Nintendo was the undisputed king with its Nintendo DS and Sony (NYSE:SNE) played second fiddle with its PlayStation Portable, those types of devoted gaming machines have been totally eclipsed in sales by app- and mobile game-laden smartphones like Apple’s iPhone.
Although the Nintendo 3DS hasn’t brought consumers back to devoted portable gaming devices, Sony’s PlayStation Vita – due out by Christmas – might mix enough of the old with the new to find an audience. The device will support touch screen-based games ported from the iPhone and Android phones, and it also will play high-definition titles with graphics akin to home consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Working in its favor is the price point of $250, making it a bargain compared to Apple’s machines and an attractive technological upgrade over the identically priced Nintendo 3DS.
Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPhone Nano
Of course, the back half of 2011 might be just as much Apple’s domain as the first half. It’s all but confirmed that the company in September will deliver two new iPhones – an upgraded fifth-generation iPhone and a smaller, cheaper model intended to broaden the iPhone audience.
Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during Tuesday’s second-quarter earnings call that Apple has “a lot going on in the fall with iOS 5 and iCloud,” including a “future product transition.” As to what that transition means for Apple’s smartphone remains to be seen.