1. Amazon lights its Fire: After nearly two months of hype and what may be millions in pre-orders, Amazon.com's (AMZN) Kindle Fire hits the market on Tuesday.
Amazon's $199 tablet should be a big seller. Taiwan's DigiTimes -- a tech news specialist that's well-connected to Asia's contract manufacturers and gadget component suppliers -- reported yesterday that Amazon has boosted its Kindle Fire orders for 2011 to a whopping 5 million.
Amazon's been promoting the Kindle Fire on its front page since the entry-level tablet was introduced in late September so it's easy to believe that the pre-orders have been strong. Earlier this week Amazon revealed that the device will also have access to thousands of Android's most popular apps. In other words, this isn't a handheld gizmo that will be limited to Amazon's ecosystem.
2. Take two tablets and call me in the morning: Two days after the Kindle Fire hits the market, Barnes & Noble (BKS) will come out with its response: Nook Tablet.
The bookseller will continue to make its original Nook and updated Nook Color e-readers. In fact, it just lowered its prices on both of those devices. However, if Amazon's going to strike with Fire, Barnes & Noble will be ready with a Tablet of its own. The Nook Tablet is priced at $249, but some will argue that it's worth the $50 premium to Amazon's tablet. Both are roughly the same size, but the Nook Tablet features double the random access memory and initial storage capacity than the Kindle Fire.
3. Land of the forgotten retailers: There was a time when Gap (GPS), Sears (SHLD), and Hot Topic (HOTT) were hot stores.
It's a whole new world for all three retailers in 2011. Gap is trying to make sense of its Old Navy, Banana Republic, and namesake concepts. Sears hooked up with Kmart and the chain has been posting uninspiring financials and negative store-level comps for years. Hot Topic fell victim to fickle fashion tastes.
All three companies will be reporting earnings next week, but only Hot Topic is projected to post earnings improvement.
4. Home is where the hardware is: Lowe's (LOW) and Home Depot (HD) report on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
You don't need to be whacked by a two-by-four to figure out the problem. Real estate prices are still feeling for a bottom, and there are still too many homeowners that owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. It's hard to get excited about installing granite countertops in the kitchen or remodeling a bathroom if the bank may take over your home.
5.Office space: Where's the "easy" button when you need one? Staples (SPLS) reports its latest quarterly results on Tuesday. It's easy to see why Staples is one of the better gauges of Corporate America's health. If small businesses are thriving or hiring again, the country's leading office supply chain will be one of the first to know.
Staples has held up better than its smaller rivals, and that's a combination of the incompetence of others and Staples' ability to take advantage of the teetering competition. However, there's only so much market share that one can gobble up before the pie itself needs to start growing.
You may never own a share of Staples, but tune in just to hear the bellwether retailer's near-term outlook.
That was easy.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not owns shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Gap. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Home Depot, Lowe's, Staples, and Amazon. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing covered calls in Lowe's.