The holiday season is almost upon us; it’s time for mad stampedes and your wallets and those of your close family and friends to be sad and empty husks of their former glory. With all the new and shiny technology coming out, who can resist buying more totally unnecessary gadgets? Just in the past month, there have been numerous product announcements and launches.

It’s difficult to keep track of every activity of these companies, so the  A&E section is here, once again, to help keep you informed and up-to-date with everything useless. Here’s a list of the important developments and products that you should be aware of, products from the three tech giants fighting for liberty — the liberation of every dollar you own.

Google

The best laid schemes of men often go awry, and the oncoming frankenstorm, Hurricane Sandy, affected Google’s scheduled conference this past Monday — well, Google and 60 million people over a span of 450 miles. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Instead of a conference with fireworks, nerds and scantily clad women, Google has decided to release their fall line-up in a very unexciting blog post. They must be confident that their products speak for themselves, and they actually do.

A new tablet, a bigger brother of the recently released Nexus 7, has been announced. The 10-inch Nexus (guess what they’re calling it?) features the highest resolution for a tablet so you can view all those cat pictures anywhere and in amazing quality.

The Nexus 4 (4.7” screen) phone was also announced. I could mention how this is Google’s new strategy of cutting off cellular companies. For only $299, one could get, without a contract or any other agreement (except the exchange of money, of course), the newest and, arguably, the best Android phone ever, but I won’t. I won’t because the new feature — Photo Sphere — is far more incredible. Imagine taking a panorama picture but in every angle. It’s difficult to describe, but, having played with the feature myself, all I have to say is that it could change how people take pictures of major events and intimate moments.

The last product in their lineup is the new Chromebook, a laptop with Google’s operating system that’s specially designed for the Web and the Cloud, which was recently released for $250.

Microsoft

Microsoft is launching a new operating system, Windows 8. All at the same time, a slew of new products is being released: Windows 8 desktops, Windows 8 laptops, Windows 8 phones, Windows 8 tablets and Windows 8 toilets.

A reimagining of the Windows brand as unique and hip (a complete UI redesign with lots of squares and colors) and a focus on tablet-computer hybrids are the focus here. A touchscreen is on every new Windows 8 device. Even the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is new.

Windows 8 is the riskiest bet that Microsoft has ever made. If it fails to resonate with consumers, not only are their mobile ambitions finished — Windows Phone 7 was lackluster for Microsoft and Nokia, an exclusive partner of Windows Phones and, more importantly, makers of Snake — but Microsoft’s cash cow, home and enterprise computers, will be in jeopardy.

Apple

The king of ads, mindshare and premium prices for average metallic products have gone through their entire product line and done a refresh. The MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac and iPad have all been modified with unexciting and newer specs with no visible redesign except for the now impossibly thin iMac. At the same conference, the new iPad Mini was announced (MiniPad sounded too similar to a certain lady’s brand). It is one of the few products that is so succinctly described by the product name.

A few weeks ago, the iPhone 5 was released to no one’s surprise and excitement.
Much of Apple’s products this year have been more about subtle refinements than game-changing innovation.

Those who say that size doesn’t matter: these three giant companies beg to differ. Each one is waging a battle for your money on every possible surface, from phones to tablets to home computers. Which one you should give your (or mommy’s) money to is unclear. Cop-outs aren’t fulfilling but they exist for a reason: there just isn’t a very definitive winner. Google manages to attract with their constant iteration, unique services and open platform. Microsoft, weirdly enough, is the underdog in this battlefield. Their Windows mobile platform never took off like they wanted it to, but they could get a lot more market share with the attractive phones, unique UI and cheap phones. Apple is the leader here, but, with their recent lackluster updates, it remains to be seen if they can stay on top.

Ultimately, everyone has a preference. Just don’t be afraid to try something new. Each platform has its own weaknesses and strengths.

Look at that verdict: an unfulfilling cop-out and extremely cheesy!