The iPad Mini is finally in the hands of consumers, and the reaction is a resounding hurrah. We're not surprised; it's an incredibly polished product, and many of us here at the Fool already have it on our Christmas lists. But what makes this such a popular device in consumers' eyes? Wasn't it just a short while ago that people were dismissing iPads as "just big iPhones"? How did we go from that, to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) selling nearly 20 million iPads in their first year alone? And perhaps more important for the company today, will the iPad Mini be as warmly received as its big brother was? In this essential history of the tablet and the iPad's rise to stardom, Motley Fool analyst Eric Bleeker takes a close look at how the world fell in love with the iPad, and why that means big things from here.

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