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Let's address the obvious first. Data published Sunday by comScore shows that -- gasp! -- Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) was a huge winner on Black Friday. Visits to the Web's largest superstore rose 28%, while Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT ) rose 22%.
Mall traffic, by contrast, was up 13.4% to 195 million from 172 million, according to data released by the National Retail Federation.
But that's the retail story -- or, more specifically, the e-tail story. You clicked here for the tech story, which I'm happy to give you. Netbooks and the billion-dollar microblogger, Twitter, were two of tech's biggest winners on Black Friday.
Wait ... what?
I know, I know, everyone was expecting me to write Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) there. Maybe I should have. After all, Macs occupied three of the top four slots on Amazon's "Most Wished For" list of computers and accessories as of this writing. (Kudos to Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt for digging this up first.)
So why not Apple? A netbook from Taiwan's Asus took the top spot, and netbooks generally accounted for five of the top eight spots. Those users who weren't wishing for a Mac were wishing for a netbook.
They were also buying netbooks: Six of the top eight sellers in Amazon's computers and accessories category were netbooks. Asian suppliers topped the chart, including Asus, Acer, and Toshiba.
How did American companies fare? Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) looks to be one of the weekend's bigger winners. A Google Insights search report said there were huge spikes in searches for Windows 7 netbooks. So much for the world being ready for a shift to the browser-based Chrome OS.
It's too soon to make sweeping judgments here, but I would have thought we'd see more interest in Linux-based netbooks, given the industry's fascination with lightweight, open-source systems. That Mr. Softy is doing well in the category speaks for just how big the task is for the Chrome OS team.
Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , meanwhile, should also take a bow. The chipmaker's Atom processor is widely used inside Windows-based netbooks. Atom's margins are thinner than those of chips designed for larger systems, but were netbook sales volume to keep rising, it could create a noticeable tailwind in Intel's next earnings report.
A better way to browse for deals
Twitter may be giving a similar boost to some big names in retail. The New York Times scoured the microblogger for evidence of businesses engaging with customers and found plenty. For example, Gap (NYSE: GPS ) , J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) , and several others posted offers directly to their Twitter feeds.
J.C. Penney, for example, was pitching multiple deals on Black Friday via its Twitter feed. Sales began at 4 a.m. local time, with a "wake-up call" tweet linking to a discount on winter coats.
Call it more evidence that Twitter is greasing the skids of e-commerce as never before. And I do mean more evidence. Amazon was using the microblogger to move products last year. But as the Times pointed out in its story, 2009 is the first holiday shopping season when retailers are actively turning to Twitter to reach customers. "Twitter Christmas" has entered the popular lexicon as a result.
What's it all mean?
If there's a common theme here, it's that the Web continues to supplement the mall during the year's biggest shopping day.
Or maybe it's bigger than that. Maybe, in the age of a real-time, socially engaged Web, we're simply more inclined to rely on connected tools to do more for us. Either way, this year's Black Friday results suggest that investors ignore the Web at their peril.
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