The gap is closing.
Apple is in for one hell of a fight. For the first time since the Once-and-future Steve returned from Pixar, the revolutionary computer giant has a legitimate rival. Two of them, in fact. Lenovo and Samsung have both zeroed in on Apple. They want the iPhone's market share. They want the iPad's market share. And they've got a blistering array of shiny gizmos to back those dreams up.
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Samsung has sold more than 2 million Galaxy Tabs in just three months, and 2010 saw Samsung's highest revenue ever. The Galaxy S has sold 10 million units, and a sequel is due out in the first half of this year. We're also likely to see a new Galaxy Tab very soon.
In a way, Samsung's approach to the smartphone market may be wiser than the one Apple has taken. By launching the Galaxy S on every carrier Samsung has succeeded in making a tremendous initial impact on Android. Which will be the dominant OS around 2012.
Now that the iPhone has spread to Verizon, Apple has much better odds of holding off that changing-of-the-guard. But Apple's command of the US smartphone market will end, and it seems like the same thing is destined to happen to the tablet market. Things don't look much better overseas.
Lenovo is firing with both barrels at Apple's inroads to China. I spoke with a Lenovo rep at CES 2011 about the LePad- he said very clearly that it was designed to dominate the Chinese tablet market. Which is one justification for its late-2011 entry to the US market. Lenovo is already the PC king of China. But I think they envision themselves as an Apple of the East. They've got the swagger- the next year will show us if they have the sense of innovation.
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While Apple has another two or three years at the top of the pile, this current period of Apple-philia is likely a high-water mark. I'm not predicting imminent doom, but the days where the entire industry will turn on an Apple press conference are numbered. Unless they can create a new market (ala the iPad) every four or five years, Apple seems destined to one day join the "pack" they strive so hard to stay ahead of.