Apple's last two weeks have been a show of excess unparalleled since the heyday of MTV's "Cribs." A 50% jump in earnings, a similar boost in iPhone sales from a year earlier, climbing Macintosh computer sales and the introduction of not only the iPad, but its competitive $499 starting price and its new iBooks store made Steve Jobs visibly giddy. However, the accompanying 8% drop in iPod sales, increasing pressure from competitors including Sony (SNE - Get Report) and Samsung and gripes about a camera-deprived tablet that relies on AT&T (T) for 3G coverage are a reminder that Apple's hits and misses still matter.
"When we think about the products that Apple has produced in the last decade or so, the level of fanfare coming from Apple doesn't always translate into mass-market consumer adoption of its products," says Susan Kevorkian, Apple analyst at IDC. "Apple is very talented at developing hardware, software and services and marketing the above, but all of its efforts don't succeed in the same way."
The history lesson embedded in iPad's evolution from the Newton PDA through the i-product lines is Apple's road map through the obstacles ahead. When the Newton struggled with lack of memory, the iPod beefed up its own memory with each ensuing generation. When Apple's collaboration with Motorola on the ROKR phone fizzled, it went in-house with iPhone development and relegated AT&T to its carrier/whipping boy.