Free markets work in wonderful ways, especially when it comes to technology. Prices come down, quality goes up, its a win-win situation for consumers. History has a habit of repeating itself and it seems to be repeating once more in regards to Apple. Once more Apple are ahead of the herd releasing new products to the market such as the iPad and iPhone but once more the market is chasing them down once more.
Apple has always been an innovative company ever since they created the first personal computer as the big players such as IBM ignored such innovations labelling them as too insignificant and 'toys'. During the 80's they create machines such as the Macintosh, which were unparalleled innovation during its time. There was nothing on the market like it. This is where Apple always slips up. If they had a similar business model to Microsoft we would in all probability be using Apples operating systems which were always far superior, however Apples solution was to keep the hardware locked down in their own control. Microsoft in the meantime just concentrated on the software and allowed the hardware manufactures to compete in selling the computers, thus lowering the costs greatly and also allowing consumers greater flexibility and choice of product (treating people as individuals with different requirements and needs).
Apple relies on its image, its marketing. Sure the Apple OS may be better than early Microsoft versions (such as the dreadful Windows 9x OS) but for consumers there are two concerns, quality and price. Why don't I drive a BMW or Audi? The cars would be superior in quality to the cars I have had, but price is also a big factor for consumers. 99.9% of the time people want a car that gets you from A to B. Its the same with Microsoft OS compared with Apples - it gets you from A to B at half the price. You put up with no fancy cup holder or an extra gadget here because the engine turns over and its cheep to maintain.
Since Apple have released their iPhone and iPad, Google and to some extent Microsoft are again packaging the software for the manufactures to use. Just like the Mac in the 80's, Apples early products have market share which is sure to be eroded in the future once more. Android is already gaining popularity with its open format and with Chrome OS due to be released later in the year this will surely take away market share from Apple (and Microsoft) as they are open, free and do the job. People can openly contribute and build apps for such systems and its only a matter of time before more applications appear for such devices. Over £400 for an iPad? Please, it sounds like daylight robbery to me. The competition is already offering much reduced priced products at half the price. It's not long before the quality catches up too and surpasses Apples offerings.
Of course you could claim that Apple do this on purpose, ie appeal to a niche markets and work from high margins. However unlike the German car companies who compete with the Koreans and the Japanese on quality and charge the premium, I can't see Apple being able to do the same against Google. Google have opened up the code and are offering it for free, allowing all sorts of customisation, thus will appeal to the masses once more. They won't need to copy Microsoft's model of vendor lock in. Times have moved on. It seems Apple have not learnt anything from 25 years ago and are repeating the same mistakes. Give it another 10 years and we will in all probability see a repeat of Apple in the wilderness once more, similar to the 90's.