For Apple, Holidays Are Going to Be Very Appy

Earlier this week, Apple’s (a AAPL) stock crossed $300 a share. It’s now the biggest technology company in terms of market capitalization, and it might soon become the biggest in America, pushing Exxon (s xom) aside. What will make it happen? A very appy holiday season. The company is becoming less of a “computer” maker and more of a gadget company, and has two hot selling products in the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad. A third potential hit would make it a very holly-jolly holiday season for Apple.

iPads are Everywhere

According to GigaOM Pro estimates (subscription req’d), around 8 million tablets are likely to ship in 2010, and a majority of those — around 6 million — are going to be iPads. Others expect even higher sales of the iPad for the entire year. During the fourth quarter of 2010, UBS Research expects Apple to sell around 4.5 million iPads.

The recent deals from Apple to sell iPads in AT&T (s T) and Verizon (s VZ) stores are only going to help Apple get a bigger grip on the tablet market, especially as the company gears up for competition from Android-based tablets such as the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Apple is already selling or planning to sell iPads at Best Buy (s bby), Walmart (s wmt) and Target (s tgt), and it’s safe to say the iPad may end up one of the best-selling devices this holiday season. Apple’s iPad push into these new channels comes at an opportune time, as UBS Research analyst Maynard Um pointed out to his clients in a research note:

Supply constraints for both [iPads and iPhones] have begun to ease, a positive for Apple as we believe these products should be two of the most heavily gifted items in addition to iPods during the holiday season. Every incremental 100k iPhone/iPad[s] equate to $0.02/$0.01 of EPS.

UBS Research estimates iPhone sales of 11.3 million units during the fourth quarter. Add to those iPhone sales an estimated 9.5 million iPods during the quarter, and iOS-powered Apple products are on their way to a record-setting quarter.

I want my Apple TV

Last night, I brought home an Apple TV and plugged it into my Samsung TV and watched — what else –- a Sherlock Holmes episode before falling asleep. I was using my Netflix (s NFLX) subscription, and it was the best Netflix experience I’ve had since… forever. It’s better than the Netflix app on Boxee running on my Mac Mini. It’s better than the integrated offering on my Samsung TV or Samsung connected Blu-ray player. It’s even better than the rock-solid implementation of Netflix on Roku.

I have no plans of renting any TV shows from Apple; I prefer to buy “Mad Men” and “House MD” for repeat viewings, but I would spend $99 just for Netflix. Much to the chagrin of my colleagues at NewTeeVee, I like Apple TV-as-a-Netflix box so much that I am going to consider giving it away as a holiday gift with a Netflix subscription to a handful of my gadget-loving friends.

Last holiday season, Stacey suggested that technology companies start thinking smartly and offer a complete solution around hot services such as Netflix or Pandora as a gift rather than making it about the gadget. To Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, here’s a suggestion: Figure out a deal with Steve Jobs, and start offering Apple TV for free in exchange when customers agree to a two-year subscription. I bet Jobs & Co., will cut you a special deal, considering there are so many new cord-cutting options on the way to the market and Apple needs an edge. According to some estimates, Apple TV has become a brisk seller -– about million units a quarter — and it can be an even bigger hit.

Now it doesn’t take a big stretch of imagination to see that the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are going to do well, but I believe the swing-factor for Apple will be the new Apple TV device. When the final results come in early January 2011, Steve Jobs might actually send a thank you card to Santa Claus.

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