Amid the hype and euphoria that accompanied
the launch of Apple's latest iPad. it was easy to forget some of the
saddest victims of Apple's relentless cult of innovation: the poor
souls who are trying to compete with the latest hit product from the
world's most valuable company.
In labs and offices in from Silicon Valley to Taiwan and from Seattle to Seoul, rival engineers and executives probably felt a mix of frustration and admiration at the latest refinements to Apple's hit tablet computer.
Their mood likely got even worse Wednesday when they read the first reviews in the tech press.
Engadget called the new product "truly beautiful," The Verge called it "stunning," while Cnet, in a self-described "love poem" to the new display, said that in one fell swoop "Apple ruins other screens for you."
"Apple's New iPad stays firmly ahead of the Tablet Pack," concluded PC World. "Is Apple's lead insurmountable? Probably."
The iPad seems to have done to its competitors the same thing that the iPod did to other music players following its introduction in 2001 - "it makes most tablets not matter," said Wired.com.
"Three iPads later, other tablets still dead on arrival," remarked CNN's Julianne Pepitone.
They in effect confirmed the claimsk by Apple chief Tim Cook at a press conference in San Francisco.
"We've taken it to a whole new level," he said. "It makes amazing improvements over the most fundamental features of the design of the device while retaining everything that millions of people have grown to love about it."
The product - and especially its ultra high definition display - was so impressive that hardly anyone seemed to notice that it was Cook's first major product demo since the death of Steve Jobs, whose passing last year caused many to question whether the company could continue without its iconic leader.
Having sold 15.4 million iPads in the last quarter alone, the introduction of the new device is likely to widen Apple's sales gap with its iPad competitors.
The company already has 60 per cent of the market, according to an NPD research report last month. Its closest competitor was Amazon's Kindle Fire, a so-called "tablet-lite," that had 17 percent of the market. Samsung had less than 7 per cent.
Both will now have to contend with an advanced new device, as well as the existing iPad 2, that is now 100 dollars cheaper.
"Apple is leaping ahead while the competition is still struggling to catch up to where the competition was," quipped analyst Steve Wildstromm.
At the top end of the market, the likes of Samsung, Asus, Acer and Motorola currently have no models that offer the amazing HD display of the new iPad or its quad core processor. They also don't have Apple's quiver of impressively integrated software designed with the company's unique blend of simplicity and sophistication.
Making things even harder is Apple's dominant position as the world's leading computer maker. Its 97-billion-dollar cash pile means that it can cut deals for bulk component purchasing and contract manufacturing at lower rates than any of its competitors.
Apple fans were once willing to pay a premium for the company's products. With the new device starting at just $499, now they can compete on price too.
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