The race to 5 million: Will iPad or Kinect be the holiday season darling?

In the goal to reach sales of 5 million before the end of the holiday season, Microsoft is touting its Kinect for XBox while Wall Street eyes 5.5 million iPads sold by the end of the seaon

There's a good old-fashioned battle brewing between Apple vs. Microsoft.

In one corner, there's Apple's iPad, a new category product but one that has an amazing headstart in both sales and popularity. Making its debut in April, the iPad hasn't been around for a full year yet but has defined the tablet PC category, setting the bar by which everything else will be compared. The competition is starting to show up but the brand awareness of the iPad - and Apple - resonates with consumers.

In the other corner is Microsoft's Kinect, a controller-free controller for the Xbox 360 that reads body gestures to control the games. It's a winner of an accessory for a winner of a game console, one of the few winners for a company like Microsoft, which has slipped in and stumbled in mobile and tablet computing.

The goal for both companies is sales of 5 million units by the end of the current quarter. Microsoft has said loudly and proudly that it's forecasting sales of 5 million units during the holiday season. On Monday, the company announced that strong Black Friday sales pushed sales of Kinect past the 2.5 million mark - and that's just after 25 days of availability. It's being called the "must-have gift" this holiday season.

Apple's goal, by contrast, isn't necessarily Apple's goal, as much as it is Wall Street's. On Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster handicapped Black Friday weekend iPad sales. On average, each store was selling 8.8 iPads per hour, his team calculated.

That's faster than Macs, which were selling at a rate of 8.2 per hour. Munster puts these numbers in line with his projection of 5.5 million iPad sales this quarter. How the estimates were calculated isn't exactly clear - but sights are still set on surpassing 5 million during the holiday season.

Of course, both companies could reach and surpass the goals during the holiday season, something that would speak much louder than some competitive bragging rights between Redmond and Cupertino.

It would say something about the state of the consumer economics and holiday spending, something positive for a change.