Black Friday is still a few weeks away, but that hasn't stopped deal pundits from predicting what buyers are likely to see when they hit the stores on the day after Thanksgiving (or increasingly, on Thanksgiving itself). Given the trends in the overall PC market, their predictions probably won't come as a huge shock to tech observers.
The two major factors that impacted last year's shopping holiday will continue to affect Black Friday in 2015. The first is the cratering of the once-hot tablet market. Not too long ago, a new tablet was the holiday gift to seek, but now it's just another device that competes against laptops, smartphones, streaming hardware, and gaming consoles. That's in no small part due to the glut of cheap models that flooded store shelves and served as "doorbusters" in Black Fridays past.
In fact, BestBlackFriday expects to see a repeat of 2014 in the form of a $5 Android tablet being available -- of course, after the requisite mail-in-rebate -- from a lesser-tier vendor (last year it was Proscan). You'll see a number of bargain rivals for not much more (possibly $20), especially since Amazon has gone even further downmarket with its new $50 Fire slate. According to GottaDeal, the online retail giant will get competition from entry-level 7-inch Windows tablets, which the website predicts could sell for as little as $49 this Black Friday.
That's the result of the other trend from last year: Microsoft deciding to slash the price it charged manufacturers to license Windows, which opened to floodgates to Black Friday PC deals that started at $200 or even less, a rarity before the days of tablets and Chromebooks. There was even a $99 Asus notebook on sale during Black Friday 2014, and DealNews and BestBlackFriday predict that price point will be match again, with BestBlackFriday even forecasting a lowest price of $94.99, with plenty of laptops sold in the $100-$110 range. Increasingly popular convertible notebooks, which combine the features of a tablet and a laptop, could start at $129, according to GottaDeal, further depressing tablet sales. GottaDeal also predicts that the cheapest desktop PCs will be pegged around $199, including a 20-inch or 22-inch LCD display.
Despite being one of the biggest brands being purchased on Black Friday, Apple has been traditionally miserly about discounts on its products, particularly at its own retail outlets. No prognosticator sees any kind of substantial change in the company's strategy, but deal sites believe we'll see a continuation of the discounting approach of offering a store gift card with the purchase of an iPad or other Apple product at full or slightly reduced price. Target has been a big proponent of such an approach, and even Apple itself got into the game in the last couple of years with iTunes cards replacing the mild sale prices of Black Fridays past.
But don't give up hope of finding any kind of deal on Apple tech. The iPad Air 2, in particular, seems ripe for deal-making, as it is a model that Apple has not recently refreshed as it prepped its new flagship iPad Pro, which is highly unlikely to see any sales. DealNews speculates that the base 16GB Air 2 could be sold for as little as $300, whereas there's more consensus around the iPad mini 2 being available for as little as $199.
You could also expect that the base MacBook Air will be at its lowest price point ever -- $730, or $50 less than last year, according to DealNews, though BestBlackFriday predicts $769 instead. Both sites expect similar deals to Black Friday 2014 for MacBook Pros with Retina displays -- $300 off. Depending on the forecaster, it's less likely you'll see a major sale on this year's MacBook laptop (DealNews), or you might see $200 discounts (BestBlackFriday).
With this week's big announcement from Microsoft around the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, the Surface Pro 3 should be available with potentially heavy discounts. DealNews foresees $150 off the base configuration, or $650, while GottaDeal speculates that the same model could drop all the way to $549. BestBlackFriday predicts that you might be able to grab an older Surface 2 tablet for as little as $250 during the shopping holiday.
One final prediction is around the timing of Black Friday ads being released to the public. While a few non-tech ads have already surfaced, everyone's best guess is that Best Buy and Walmart and other major retailers will "leak" their circulars in about a month. That should give you plenty of time to prepare your shopping list -- and to start saving.