If you know someone very well, it’s safe to buy them a computer or computing gadget of some kind – as long as you can afford it. On the other hand, you don’t want to buy something as a Christmas gift that they already have. If you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about, think ties and sweaters. Over the course of your lifetime, I’ll bet you’ve received more sweaters than you’ll ever wear. Nonetheless, technology gifts (even duplicates) are almost always appreciated.
Desktop Computer, Laptop Computer or Tablet Computer?
When you’re looking at desktop computers, you’re looking at the “PC”, the “Macintosh” and few other choices. The PC is the most versatile of the group, with the ability to use almost anything (except OS X) as the operating system. The PC is also usually the cheapest choice and the one that will be appreciated by the largest group of people. Back in 1994, I paid over $2,000 for a lowly Pentium computer at 72 MHz and 64 megabits of memory (a Packard Bell). Nowadays, you can buy something many times more powerful for well less than half that price. The Macintosh is going to be at least double the PC with comparable specifications.
If you’re looking at laptop computers, you not only have to deal with the difference between a PC and a Macintosh, but you have to deal with the differences between a notebook and a netbook (or mini-laptop). Unless the intended recipient has made noise about being interested in a netbook, you’re better off thinking about a full-sized notebook. Of course, since their introduction, the specifications between netbooks and notebooks have blurred a bit. Think of anything with more than a 12-inch screen as being a notebook and you should be safe. Needless to say, both notebooks and netbooks are turning out to be more expensive than the latest entry-level desktop PCs.
Speaking of netbooks, you may be able to kill two birds with one stone. The tablet computer (a “tablet” as opposed to a tablet PC) is making inroads and becoming a product of choice, introduced by the iPad of course. There are accessories that will allow you to turn an iPad into a netbook, with a full keyboard and everything. You’re not limited to an iPad because Samsung and other manufacturers are competing for your hard-earned dollars in that market as well.
Ultimately, what you choose is going to depend on how mobile the intended gift recipient is or is going to be. A friendly reminder – anything Apple is going to be more expensive than any of the competitors.
Cell Phones and Smartphones
Everyone has heard of the iPhone, one model or another. Almost everyone has heard of the Android-based smartphones. Before you select a smartphone of any make or model, as opposed to an ordinary cell phone, think about where your targeted gift receiver lives.
While smartphones are cool and have all kinds of features, they’re not the best choices for everyone. If a person lives in an area where a decent cell signal is difficult to maintain, why on Earth would they care about the rest of the features?
E-Readers and Music Players
The choices are unlimited. When you say e-reader (or e-book reader), most people think of the Kindle (and I recently bought a Kindle myself), but you also have the Nook and others. The Kindle is the safest bet, regardless of location, but it’s obviously not the only choice that makes sense. If someone spends a lot of time going to Barnes & Noble, instead of Amazon, then the Nook is a more appropriate gift.
When it comes to music players, everyone thinks iPod first. There are even different iPods like the Nano and the Touch. In my opinion, you’re better off getting something a little less proprietary, especially if you just want to store and play MP3 files. You’ll save money and you’ll be more likely to be able to play, well, anything.
Now, if you want someone to have total connectivity to the iTunes store, then your choices are limited to the iPad, the iPod or the iPhone, whatever flavor is available. After all, iTunes is owned by Apple and Apple makes the products that work with it. Anything made for an Apple service is obviously going to be the most compatible product.
[Originally published in December, 2011]