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By Kevin Bullis
Why: The rest of the consumer electronics industry is scrambling to catch up to the iPad. The iPhone still sets the standard for smart phones, even if its market share slips.
Key innovation: Its limited lineup of mobile devices all run on the same east-to-use software.
With the iPod Touch, the iPhone, and now the iPad, Apple has put reliable, relatively inexpensive touch-screen computing technology into the hands of tens of millions of users. The company's patented interface can sense and respond to multiple touches, allowing intuitive, gestural control that largely does away with the need for buttons on a device.
The iPod dominates the market for personal music players, and although the flurry of smart phones based on Google's Android operating system slowed Apple’s growth somewhat, the company still gained smart-phone market share in 2010. With the iPad, Apple has also staked a dominant position in the burgeoning tablet market: 15 million have been sold since the device was introduced in April of last year.
The iPad represented a huge gamble: other tablet computers, including Apple’s own ill-fated Newton, had met with little commercial success. Many analysts also predicted failure for the iPad, which lacks Adobe Flash support (making a significant amount of Web content unavailable) and doesn’t include a camera. But strong sales and a rush of competing products from Apple's competitors have vindicated the move.
Challenges and Next Steps:
In 2011, Apple can expect a flood of Android tablet offerings to compete with the iPad. But recent reports suggest that the company will also be coming out with a new version of the iPad, complete with front-facing camera to enable videoconferencing.