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Amazon, Microsoft, Apple: The Buzz on the Products That Will Make or Break the World's Biggest Companies


Here's what's being said about the Paperwhite e-reader and Windows 8. Plus, will Apple offer a mini iPad?

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The all-important fourth quarter has begun, and gadget makers are packing up their goods for shipping. For investors, it's time to listen in to the early buzz, good and bad, about the products that will make or break some of the world's biggest companies in 2012. Here's the latest:

Amazon's Paperwhite Shines

This week, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) started shipping its new line of Kindle devices to customers, and the tech media types got their hands on it. Early reviews are enthusiastic, not to say gushing.

Reviewers are particularly impressed by the bottom-of-the-line model, the $119 Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, which features a patented light that allows reading in any lighting conditions and a battery that's supposed to last up to two months. Many advise consumers to throw in an extra $20 for the version that isn't subsidized with intrusive advertising.

Amazon has updated its whole Kindle line, with the higher-priced multimedia models carrying the Kindle Fire label priced from $199 to $499. But for the moment, that snazzy low-end Paperwhite has got the buzz, with reviewers calling it "the most advanced e-reader the world has ever seen!" ( and "The new king of e-readers!" (

The folks at Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) are deeply annoyed. They did the built-in light thing first, after all. The rival book store dropped the price of its Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight by $20, to $119, to match the lowest-priced Amazon price. And, Barnes & Noble snarked in the announcement, their entry-priced model doesn't come with advertising.

A new study from Pew Research suggests that tablets are a no-brainer for the 2012 holidays. About 22% of US adults now own a tablet, the study says.

Significantly, the real lift-off in tablet sales didn't begin until one year ago, when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) got some real competition from lower-priced models.

About 48% of the tablets out there now use Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android software, including Amazon's Kindle brand. The Apple iPad share of the tablet market dropped from 81% to 52% in a year.

Apple iPad Mini? Maybe.

Which brings us to the rumors of a newer, smaller Apple iPad, which are snowballing and even gathering a few specifics. Quoting "a major Apple investor," says invitations to the announcement will go out on Oct. 10. That suggests an early-November release date for the new device.

If it exists, that is, which the company will not confirm or deny.

First question: What map app does it use?
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