While the secret for Apple's success seems patently obvious to most&meash;as obvious as the form and function of the iPhone 4—a more subtle reason is the company's counter-intuitive knack for disrupting its own product lines.
Will that be an iPad or a MacBook Air? Decisions, decisions.
Let's set the stage be asking why can't a Sony or a Toshiba or a Dell emulate Apple's success? They've been around the block a few times and have access to equal, or better, resources. A full answer to that question is too long and involved to address in any format other than a Ph.D dissertation. But a willingness (or unwillingness in the above-mentioned companies) to eat one's own progeny—metaphorically speaking—is crucial. In market parlance, it's referred to as disruptive technology. What makes Apple special is that it comes from within the company.
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