Three years after adding the name iPad to America's pop and consumer culture, Apple has maintained the "wow" factor, if kids' wish lists for holiday gifts is any indication.
Nearly half of kids interviewed by market research giant Nielsen said they want an iPad, compared with just 39 percent who want the hottest toy on the market -- Nintendo's brand spanking new Wii U platform.
The fact that the iPad, with a 48 percent popularity rating (up from 44 last year), came out almost 10 points ahead of the motion-sensing gaming device with its new tablet controller and slate of new game titles that was released just this week -- the first new game platform in years -- shows that the product continues to have cachet, ensuring lots of future buyers, at least in the short term.
That's good news for Apple as it begins to lose market share to the competition with dozens of rival tablet offerings -- including Microsoft's Surface, Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Google's Nexus.
For the survey, Nielsen reached approximately 3,000 consumers above age 6 in paired online interviews with their parents in October and November.
A bundle of other Apple products were also on the wish list: the iPod Touch (36 percent), the new iPad mini (36 percent) and the iPhone (33 percent). But the poor stepchild of the family, Apple TV, was the least desirable. Only 4 percent showed an interest in the device, which streams Web content to your TV screen.
"It is interesting to see how technology has made its way to the forefront of holiday wish lists in comparison to toy trends over the last couple of decades," analyst Jeff Orr of ABI Research told us.
But he cautioned that with many families still struggling, a good portion of those kids will have to settle for a less-expensive present.
"With the fragile economic climate, one has to seriously ponder if these gadgets are a 'must have' item or something that can wait a little longer when consumer sentiment improves," Orr said.
Research firm IDC found that Apple's tablet market share dropped from 60 percent to a still-dominant 50 percent year-over-year in the third quarter, although the release of the fourth-generation iPad and the iPad mini could well reverse that trend during the quarter that includes the holiday season.
The iPad also came out on top when people 13 and older were asked about their interest in buying within the next six months.
Android, Kindle Demand Weak
Twenty-one percent of buyers chose the iPad (no versions were specified), while 19 percent gave the generic answer "computer" and 18 percent expressed interest in a non-Apple tablet. The Wii U came in third place with 18 percent, followed by the iPhone (14 percent) and a smart TV (13 percent.) The iPad figure was slightly up from last year's 24 percent.
Android smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III or Motorola Droid Razr, did not fare well in either survey, ranking 19th on children's must-have list and eighth on the 13-plus short-term planned buying list.
Nineteen percent of kids said they wanted a Kindle Fire, compared with 10 percent of teens and adults. Microsoft's Xbox 360, which hasn't had a refresh since 2005, was desired by a quarter of the children surveyed, and just 7 percent of teens and adults, though the motion sensor for Xbox, Kinect, fared better: 31 percent for kids and 9 percent of adults.