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Rather than offer traditional discounts today, Apple is packing in gift cards with several of its best-selling gadgets. But if you’ve been holding out for a good deal on the new iPad Air or iPad Mini with Retina Display, you’ll have to keep waiting.

Apple is currently offering a $50 gift card with last year’s iPad Mini, the iPad 2 (a terrible deal, in my opinion), and the iPod Touch as well as $150 gift cards with new MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and iMacs. MacRumors has a good run down of other gift card offers, which includes some third-party accessories.

The gift card deals will be live today in Apple’s online and retail stores. Strangely, Apple is offering traditional discounts on its European site and stores. Offering gift cards may give Apple an accounting break for this Black Friday, since it’s still getting the full price for its products from consumers. And instead of taking their savings to another retailer, consumers are forced to spend their gift card savings at Apple’s stores.

This latest Black Friday strategy by Apple is a sly way to keep consumers locked into its retail ecosystem. It may also be a sign of how Apple, a company that’s notoriously stingy with discounts already, handles sales in the future.

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