NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For more than a decade Apple (AAPL - Get Report) gadgets have had very little competition on holiday wish lists. This year, other tech toys are making a serious play for Apple's long-hoarded holiday shopping dollars.Just last week, Apple reported a rare earnings miss in its third quarter and went conservative with its forecast for next quarter's holiday shopping season. Though competitors reported similar stumbles -- including Amazon (AMZN - Get Report), which operated at a loss last quarter -- none appeared as invulnerable to U.S. consumer whim as Apple had in recent years.
That disparity is far more pronounced globally, where research firm Gartner (IT) says Nokia (NOK) and Samsung's 41% mobile market share dwarfs Apple's 5%. Among global smartphone users, Apple fares somewhat better, with a 24% share of the market that's still been surpassed by Android's 50% dominance. Among computer operating systems, Mac and iOS are still small players. According to web metrics firm Net Applications, Microsoft (MSFT) Windows is the operating system of choice on 84% of all personal computers in the world. Mac operating systems are just 6.3%, or little more that Windows Vista's 6.15%.
If Apple's performance isn't living up to its market cap and share price, why is it still so hard to find an Apple product that doesn't top a wish list of tech toys? The competition simply wasn't playing Apple's game -- until recently. While Apple products still hover near the top of critics lists, we and the folks at Decide.com found products more than fit enough to take on the iEmpire. Investors and fanboys beware: The following is written with the average, brand-indifferent consumer in mind: