Apple iPad: Two Years Old, and Just Getting Started

The iPad turned two on Friday. Despite a persistent onslaught of would-be rivals, the Apple tablet still dominates the market, and it doesn’t show any signs of losing momentum any time soon.

On the one hand, two years seems too short. The iPad is so ubiquitous, and so entwined in mainstream culture already, that it is hard to imagine a time without it. For many--myself included--it has already become an indispensible tool in that short span, and it has evolved into a mobile computing platform capable of replacing a traditional laptop in many cases.

The Apple iPad continues to dominate the market it created out of thin air.
On the other hand, the iPad--and the broader concept of the tablet PC--is really still just getting started. The changes that Apple has introduced in the past year—the new features of iOS 5, iCloud, iTunes Match, and the recently launched iBooks 2 all make the iPad a more capable device, and expand the possibilities for how it is used.

The pervasive presence of the iPad is amazing. You can go to virtually any airport, or coffee shop and you will find more than a few people using the Apple tablet. I’ve been surprised at the number of times I have seen someone at an event using an iPad to take pictures or capture video.

I am encountering more alternative tablets in the wild now as well. At the Houston Marathon, I saw someone using a 7-inch HTC Flyer tablet to take pictures, and at my daughter’s gymnastics class I saw a woman studying for a pharmacy class on a Motorola Xoom. They’re out there. The ones that get the most attention, though, are the duds and flops like the HP TouchPad, and BlackBerry PlayBook.

The sheer number of rival tablets is a testament to the success of the iPad. There is a long list of tablet devices that have already gone from launch, to fizzle, to the grave in the short amount of time that the iPad has been around. The Amazon Kindle Fire is the first competing device that has achieved any notable success, but the demand for tablets in general continues, and it is virtually inevitable that there will be other tablets that snag some market share as well.

At two years old, the tablet is still a nascent technology, and innovative minds both inside and outside of Apple are developing new ways to use it. It will be interesting to check back in a few years—like the fifth birthday of the iPad—and see what tablets have achieved, and whether or not the Apple iPad can still maintain its dominance.

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