What Apple's Competitors Finally Understand

Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) competitors are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore! Or at least they'll try a different strategy that might cut short Apple's domination of everything sleek and expensive. Instead of strictly mimicking Apple design, the competitions' new releases actually showcase some independent thought. Here's why that's good news for everyone in the long run.

The not-so-great, but different, tablet
(NYSE: SNE) released its new Tablet P to consumers a few weeks ago. Like Nintendo's DS, the Tablet P showcases two separate screens, and unlike every other tablet, it folds up in a clamshell. Yes, the tablet is expensive at $550. Yes, TheWall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg says that it has "paltry memory, weak battery life, and a poor speaker." Yes, sales of the tablet will probably be unimpressive, especially given that the new iPad is $50 cheaper. But a company with resources has finally released something that isn't another iPad clone!

Sony once had the iPod of the 1980s with the Walkman, and I believe its prospects of owning another generation of consumers greatly increased now that it proved it can build something (however inferior) that doesn't copy Cupertino's construction. More variation in tablets not only gives consumers more choice but also gives Sony more business opportunity.

Not iOS, not Android
's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows Phone 7 doesn't follow Apple's stranglehold on operating-system design, either. And it may actually beat Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android in customer satisfaction, as one survey found that 57% of Windows Phone 7 users were very satisfied with their phone, compared with 50% of Android users. Microsoft demonstrated that it can succeed in supplanting dominant industry players with its Xbox game system, and while mobile is not a new industry for Microsoft, its mobile and tablet market share of 0.41% basically make it a new entrant.

As recently as 2007, Microsoft dominated the mobile smartphone industry with 42% market share, and there's no reason it can't repeat that feat, especially with its novel operating system that diverges from Apple's classic application layout. And not only does it give Microsoft a better chance of competing, but it also offers consumers a choice to break away from Apple's ecosystem.

It's only a matter of time
Right now, Apple sits at the top of style, functionality, and consumers' minds. But other companies are finally breaking free from the mindset of mimicry, and it will take just one hit product for consumers and the market to realize Apple isn't the only consumer-electronics maker capable of a good product. And yes, while there is still room for Apple's imitators, like the line of Ultrabooks that Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) has helped jump-start with its $300 million fund to promote developers and manufacturers of the superlight and mobile laptops, the next Apple will have to break free from traditional copycat design.

It will still be awhile before anyone topples Apple, but Apple isn't the only company getting rich from the move to mobile computing. To reveal three other stocks poised to profit from tablets and phones, read our free report: "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution".

At the time thisarticle was published

Fool contributorDan Newmandid write this on a MacBook Air. He holds no shares of the companies mentioned above. Follow him on Twitter, @TMFHelloNewman.

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