iPad, iPhone, iOS 4.2: 10 Ways Apple Outperforms the Competition

News Analysis: Apple is tech royalty. But it achieved success through innovations such as the iPad, iPhone and the new iOS 4.2, which have made the company an industry benchmark.

With the release of iOS 4.2 on Nov. 22, Apple is proving once again that it's a wildly successful company that's enjoying a level of popularity that hasn't been matched by any other firm in the industry. Speculation abounds over why Apple has been able to achieve such success where so many other companies have failed. And time and again, the reasons come back to its leader, Steve Jobs, and its ability to deliver products that customers actually want.

But limiting Apple's success to those two factors is a mistake. The hardware company has been successful throughout the years due to a slew of reasons that need to be fully illustrated in order to get a solid picture of what the company is all about. Some reasons might be obvious, while others might not. But in either case, Apple has been able to outperform all of its competitors with ease.

Here's why:

1. Superior mobile software

Apple is best known as a hardware company that delivers mobile products and computers. But it's the company's software that has made it so successful. Take iOS 4.2, for example. The most recent release in Apple's mobile software is undoubtedly its best for iPad customers. And it delivers the ability to both stream content to AirPlay-compatible devices and print wirelessly from those products. If it weren't for such an outstanding mobile platform, the iPhone and iPad wouldn't be as successful today.

2. It leads in product design

When it comes to product design, there isn't a single company in the industry that can match Apple. Steve Jobs and Company continues to show off the best-looking products in the space without a single competitor coming close to matching it. The reason why is simple: Apple is willing to spend cash on the right technologies to make its products unique. Other companies typically go the easy route. And it has put those firms far behind Apple.

3. The iPad was a winner from the start

Apple is such a success today because it knows what consumers really want. And that's especially true when it comes to its iPad. From the beginning, the iPad was a success, even though some folks wondered if it had enough value to help it beat netbooks or other products. As 2010 comes to a close, it's clear now that netbooks never stood a chance.

4. The iPhone is the smartphone benchmark

Apple's iOS platform might not be as popular as Google's Android, but that doesn't mean that the iPhone isn't popular. Quite the contrary, the iPhone is the smartphone by which all other products in the mobile market are judged. And so far, not a single device has been able to match its value. Now, that could change over time. But as long as the iPhone reigns supreme in the mobile market, so too will Apple.

5. Steve Jobs has a vision

It's hard to talk about the reasons for Apple's success without acknowledging the contribution Steve Jobs has made to his company. With the help of Jobs' vision, Apple has become the top tech firm in the space. And although Jobs has made some missteps in the past, over the past decade, he has made all the right decisions in those areas where they count most.

6. Mac OS X woos users

Mac OS X doesn't have the market share thatWindows enjoys. But as Microsoft Windows 7 has shown, Apple's platform can be an inspiration in software design. But it goes beyond that. As more and more consumers get their hands on Macs, they're usually quite impressed by the software. And for good reason: it's secure, well-built, and quite usable for novices and advanced users. It has helped Apple sell Macs.

7. Expect the unexpected

Apple does something that no other firm in the tech industry can accomplish: it makes consumers, enterprise customers, and even the media expect the unexpected. It doesn't simply follow a roadmap that so many other companies in the industry follow. It comes up with new ideas for products that the market hasn't seen. It goes for shock value to increase hype surrounding its products. And in the process, it sets itself apart.

8. The iPod has helped significantly

If it weren't for the iPod, there wouldn't be the iPad or the iPhone. Apple's music player was a key reason for the success it currently enjoys. When it first launched, the iPod delivered a unique take on listening to music. And since then, it has evolved into a product that the vast majority of tech consumers own. Without the help of the iPod, Apple simply wouldn't be as successful today.

9. iTunes reigns supreme

It's also important to note the contribution Apple's iTunes has made to its success. With the help of its marketplace, the company has been able to keep people tied to the iPod and its many other mobile platforms. It has also provided a revenue stream that other companies, including Microsoft and Amazon have tried to capitalize on with their own products. It's often overlooked, but iTunes is central to the success of Apple.

10. Its top competitors didn't get it

One of the first things folks might realize about Apple is that its competitors, for the most part, don't quite understand consumers the way Apple does. Hewlett-Packard and Dell, for example, are still producing computers that lack the design value that Apple enjoys with its own products. Admittedly, HP is doing a better job than it ever has at fixing those mistakes, but it still has a long way to go. Apple's competition simply can't match the company's vision for what's necessary -- and what's not.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...