Apples knows how to market things and make them look hip. I never considered the iPod groundbreaking and there were countless other mp3 players many times better. The notebooks have been ok, but I don't see anything groundbreaking about them either. Touchscreen phones were out long before the iPhone. Pretty much same thing for their desktops, although they are well built to a degree ( they have their own issues) still not groundbreaking.
The iPad may have not been the very first tablet, but according to Apple and the marketing they've done, everyone seems to think it was/is. Totally agree that every other company seems to be releasing half baked attempts at a tablet. Apple caught them with their pants down and now they are playing catchup and are in a panic, and it shows. Apple already had a small tablet made years back. It was the iTouch, but it was too small to make it a proper tablet. It was a no brainer that they needed a larger one. What is the iPad if not just a big itouch. They didn't even bother to alter the OS for it. The only challenge was a bigger screen and battery life -and convincing the world that this big iTouch was a tablet - hence marketing.
I think if you look at any industry now compared to years back, it has become more about how cheap you can make a product for max profit, and simply make it last the length of the warranty - nothing else matters to them like customer loyalty/pride in product. I'll give Apple credit in that it tries to make a decent piece of hardware by adding little touches here and there like quality of materials they use, but it's nothing that any other company couldn't do...they just choose not to because it doesn't fit their make it cheap/max profit way of doing business. There was a time when more companies had pride in their products, but that day is long gone. Everything I own these days has it's issues it seems, even my first iPad died, and I see issues with macbooks at work quite a bit as well- so no, Apple isn't perfect either, just better then some.
Apple is also very good at taking ideas from others and putting their name on it, marketing it again, and all of a sudden the Zombies think Apple invented it. Airplay anyone? mp3 players anyone?
I still hate their software,OS and IOS and their closed system for everything. iTunes is miserable, and having to pay for things like pdf readers, and remote desktop utils and so on is pathetic. When it comes to software, they are far far behind others.