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By the end of the day today, there will be dozens, if not hundreds of reviews and commentary about Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) just-revealed iPad 2. Some tech experts will be thrilled with the sleeker profile, added cameras, and other new features; others will be bitter there wasn't more. But as investors, all we really need to know is this: it's the iPad 2.
Apple's already on its second version of the first legitimate entry into the tablet computing market, while competitors like Blackberry (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , LG, and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) are just now getting into the game. That year's head start (and 15 million units sold) means that, like the iPod and iPhone before it, the iPad is already the established gold standard and a household name, last year's joking all but forgotten. And let's not forget that Apple enjoys not only mindshare, but also an App Store packed with iPad-optimized applications. That's a pretty wide moat for any competitors to swim across.
Do copycats have nine lives?
That doesn't mean the Playbook, G-Slate, and Xoom are doomed. Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android-powered phones are holding their own against the iPhone, and Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS ) Nook eReader has sold well despite tough competition from first mover Amazon's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle. But the iPhone (on its fourth version) and the Kindle (on round three) still dominate. The iPhone might only hold 4% of the worldwide mobile market, but controls a majority of the profits.
The problem is, that while everyone else is frantically playing catch-up, first movers can sit back, watch, learn, and improve. By the time competitors release a similar product, the first mover has already build a better mousetrap. So with the iPad 2, confident the core product was a hit, Apple's engineers could focus on making it thinner, lighter, faster, and in white.
What does this mean for us investors? It means Apple's best days are still to come as it continues to create, then dominate, every market it decides to enter.
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