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What Will Be The Hottest Gadgets This Holiday Season?


What are the hottest consumer electronic products for this holiday season? We talk to the executive editor of about iPods, tablet PCs, motion-sensitive video games and all the other tech goodies that will be at the top of many holiday wish lists.

What are the hottest consumer electronic products for this holiday season? We talk to the executive editor of about iPods, tablet PCs, motion-sensitive video games and all the other tech goodies that will be at the top of many holiday wish lists.


Molly Wood, executive editor of

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanagh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. For lots of people the real winter wonderland is not found in the snowcapped mountains and it's found in the electronics store. High-tech manufacturers put out their sleekest shiniest most alluring products during the holiday season and it's easy to spend hours gazing on the products on display but how do you know which products are right for you. Joining us to help figure that out is my guest Molly Wood, executive editor of and Molly welcome to These Days.

MOLLY WOOD: Hello thanks for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now we invite our listeners to join the conversation. Are you asking Santa for some electronics this year. Give us a call at your questions or your comments. The number is 188-895-5727. So, Molly what are the hottest tech items for this holiday season?

MOLLY WOOD: Well there's no question that tablets and the iPad in particular is hugely popular but I'm finding actually there's a surprising amount of interest are limited though. The sort of dedicated e-book reader thing has not gone away and people are into gaming are all about the Microsoft Xbox Kinect. That's a system that allows you to actually move your entire body to play games.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes right, like the Wii.

MOLLY WOOD: But you don't even, with the Wii you just hold it in your hand. The Kinect has the crazy motion cam and you dance around in front of it and play video games is pretty amazing actually.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's start with the tablets if we can get you talked about the tablet PCs are hitting the market the iPad has gotten the most publicity what can you tell us about the other tablet PCs.

MOLLY WOOD: The only one, there are two arguably on the market now you can also buy the Samsung galaxy tab which is available from the cell phone retailers actually so you can buy that with or without a cell phone contract, just a data contract. So you have constant Internet access, not just wi-fi home and that's a real competitor although it is sort of the first of its kind. There are going to be many more of these tablets coming up around the android operating system from Google.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I saw an article posted on about the latest PCs with the title should you wait to buy one you know the latest tablets should you wait to buy one.. Would you wait to buy one?

MOLLY WOOD: You know I would. I would. Certainly it is hard because here we are approaching the purchase dates, but I feel very confident that there's going to be a new version of the iPad producing and so if it's important to not have buyers remorse or if you're waiting we think it's very likely to have a front facing camera so you could do video conferencing or face time calling like the new iPhone can do so if that matters to you you probably do want to hold out and you know the galaxy tab is a very nice tablet. It's a really nice product but again it is the first iPad competitor to hit the market. The one I would feel safe by now actually is probably the new Barnes & Noble Nook color.\

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was just going to talk about that. Go-ahead.

MOLLY WOOD: It's a great gadget and it's a little in between because the (inaudible) are fully handwriting tablet but it's also a very good either. You can use it to get e-mail or be on Facebook or do some kind of low-level tablet stuff. To me that's a really good compromise and you're probably not going to have a lot of buyers who were straight Nook.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Molly Wood. She is executive editor of So I think the note kind of like a competitor to the Kindle but you are comparing it to the iPad.

MOLLY WOOD: I think it is for someone who's not quite sure. It's almost like it's baby bear. So with the iPad is Papa Bear and the Kindle is you know, kind of mama bear and Nook is just right because it is a little bit more than a Kindle, it's not just up your e-book reader. You can still get tablet function but it's half the price of the iPad end it's not as big and heavy.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, and just to explain this for people, the knocker, the Barnes & Noble number color as an advantage just because of the color.

MOLLY WOOD: It has a color touch screen and it can do some of the things that tablet can do. So it's not, for whatever reason it's not considered a fault tablet but it can definitely get online, has a browser built-in it is running the android operating system if you've heard of that's a nice LCD screen. It can surf the web so it can do certainly a little bit more.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Despite that the Kindle is holding on pretty strong.

MOLLY WOOD: The Kindle has some advantages too. If you really only care about reading about the case for a lot of people it's the best reading experience you're going to have because it looks just like paper. The eInk is so remarkable and really easy on the eyes. Some people don't like reading on a backlit screen. The Kindle is very inexpensive if you want the version that has WiFi it's $140 so it's a pretty good price. It's a very easy guess.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's talk for a moment about cell phones. Is everyone so trying to compete with the iPhone.

MOLLY WOOD: And I think the competition is actually stronger than ever. It feels like really the first year where you have serious alternatives to the iPhone and there are a lot of amazing and ringtones, the Windows phone seven platform looks really good and even the palm Trio is still kicking and people really like it. I think you can actually have your choice. People felt like in a lot of cases that they may be wanted an iPhone but didn't have an AT&T service or cut AT&T's service in their area now you can really pick and choose.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about price points? Is the iPhone still the most expensive?

MOLLY WOOD: The smartphone market has really taken off and they are all around the same price. They're all around $200 with a contract maybe 299 if it's a brand-new phone with the contract. Most phones these days have a rebate. You can expect if you want a phone with all the features, email, probably the 199.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Molly Wood. She is executive editor of and we are talking about holiday high-tech gadgets out the season. You know, Molly, one of the things that I've seen and I wanted to get your thought on it, people have so many electronic gadgets, their iPads and iPhones and all the rest that recharging is becoming sort of an issue in the household and I've seen things that look like, that kind of look like mousepads. They are flat and they can charge your phone and charge other of your electronics. Have you tried any of these out and do they work?

MOLLY WOOD: They are, they are called powermats. Powermats and Mac makes most of them. Wireless conducting charges but if your phone is supported and works with these than their pretty amazing yet you can absolutely set your phone down anywhere. I think they do support the newest iPhone, the ego which is a great phone from Sprint Motorola Droid X. and Blackberries, the cool thing is you can actually charge up to two devices, maybe up to three or four that they just don't have the power mat devices that they don't support every single phone or every single device, but if you are an iPhone house and you have two or three iPhones, it is absolutely a great option and I have to say I found one of the great things if you have a smartphone a cool accessory to give somebody is they have these little desktop docs.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes I've seen people with those.

MOLLY WOOD: You dock your phone every day and it turns into a little clock you can have a picture slide show playing and on top of that you can have your phone charging all day.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And do you know how much those are going for this season?

MOLLY WOOD: They range from $30-$50 so they are pretty good gift.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There seem to be a lot of gifts that allow people to stream some kind of web-based content to their TVs. There is Apple TV, there's Roku which is a digital video player. What kind of consumers would be interested in these products?

MOLLY WOOD: When I did a survey and asked people what they thought would be their top five tech gifts they were the three I mentioned earlier and the Roku was a solid number four. People are really interested in that and I think all kinds of people are as long as they don't have a TiVo because TiVo can already kind of do that. So Roku is a little box you plug into the back of your television and it connects to your Internet wirelessly and you could get Amazon video on demand movie on TV and you can stream Netflix and it also has built-in. So it's a way to either supplement your existing cable because you can get all of your cable on the little box and some people use as an alternative to cable completely.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Wow so you can actually stream Netflix onto your television instead of onto your computer.

MOLLY WOOD: Exactly, yeah, it's a great addition and Netflix just announced $8 a month a plan where you can only stream movies. You don't even get a DVD and Netflix has a ton of TV shows, it's a great way to get caught up on a television show.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much are we talking about with the Roku?

MOLLY WOOD: The Roku was pretty inexpensive. I've seen it online on cyber Monday deals as well as about $60 and goes up to about 120 depending on how much HD capability you want.

AMAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Molly, you want to talk about that Microsoft and Sony entries into this sort of stand up and play video game idea. Tell us more about that.

MOLLY WOOD: Yeah, so the Kinect is probably the most innovative in terms of the Kinect technology because there's no controller at all. The $150 camera system that you buy and you do have to have an Xbox already. So you connect it to your Xbox and TV and there's a couple games for it. The big drawback is you have to have enough space in your living room to be able to do this, but boy when you get it set up and working there some really fun sort of dance games that you can play. There is one called Kinect... it's just this all you do really is interact with the adorable animals on the screen. It's the best get gift ever.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How does it operate if there's no control that you hold?

MOLLY WOOD: The camera that you buy has a motion sensing camera and a voice controller. So you move around and talk to it. It's really pretty remarkable when you see it in action. Now the PlayStation move on the other hand is a little cheaper. It's about $100 and it does involve both the camera and the handheld controller more like the Wii.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So I see, are you predicting that these games, these motion games are going to be big this season?

MOLLY WOOD: Yeah and I think the Kinect is turning out to be the surprise hit of the season. It's been selling the investors and I think Microsoft is out of stock on several sites already.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh no so you have to get it now.

MOLLY WOOD: Exactly, order now and cross your fingers.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are some other cool products geared towards kids this season?

MOLLY WOOD: Certainly anything in the game world is great for kids. The Nintendo, you might want to wait for this one actually, Nintendo 3DS is coming out and that's the new handheld, Nintendo DS and the DSI has been the best-selling handheld consoles in the world. They are coming out with one that's actually going to be a 3-D screen with no glasses required. And unfortunately that one's not coming out until after the holidays.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's after the holidays so you can't get it now.

MOLLY WOOD: Which is kind of heartbreaker but it might be worth getting an IOU if you've got a kid who can't wait.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Find a picture somewhere and say it's coming in January. I'm wondering, what do you think as executive editor of CNet how do you think the economy is going to be impacting sales of high-tech items this holiday season. Can you see this as a good one, or still pretty depressed?

MOLLY WOOD: I think people are shopping a lot smarter and I think if you look at the top choices for people's gift ideas is the Kinect, which is a cheaper accessory item or at the Roku which is maybe a way to spend $100 once and replace cable. Or the nook, which is a well priced tablet as opposed to the big iPad splurge. I think people are being a lot more careful and are just as interested in technology as they ever were but they say you know I don't need to spend $4000 on a new 3-D TV because that's just kind of silly. I can get Roku instead.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just in closing we have seen some remarkable deals that they are showing on television for just straight up laptops. Should we see that continue through the holiday season?

MOLLY WOOD: I think the tablet market has the laptop makers pretty scared so they are heavily discounting those devices and you know they're just not as expensive as they used to be. I think Wal-Mart had one black Friday for $200. That and TV deals I think they're going to continue to be amazing this holiday season.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Molly, thank you so much. It's been fun.

MOLLY WOOD: My pleasure.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Molly Wood is executive editor for If you'd like to comment please go online to Days. And stay with us for hour two coming up in just a few minutes on KPBS.

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