The answer to the question, “Is the iPad a game-changer?”

Steve Jobs while presenting the iPad in San Fr...

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…is yes.

Nobody – not even the most pro-Apple pundits – predicted the number of iPads Apple would sell in the year of its launch, 2010.

So-called expert professional analysts ranged in their predictions from 7 million down to 1.1 million. These are the guys who are paid large amounts of money to advise investment banks and funds.

Meanwhile, high profile “amateur” bloggers and journalists also got it wrong, though not as badly as the professionals. Their predictions ranged from 9 million down to 3 million.

Apple sold 14.8 million iPads in 2010.

I sometimes use the phrase “unforeseeable growth” to describe the kind of growth that not even the most knowledgeable observers of a market can predict. It’s usually an indicator that fundamentally transformational change is taking place.

via Unforeseeable growth: Analyst failure on iPad as indicator of disruptive change | asymco.

So, it’s a game-changer. The most accurate professional was over 100% out on his estimate. Apple had 95% of the tablet market in 2010, a market they now define. None of their competitors was able to offer a product of similar quality. Lots of new devices have been announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month, but nothing is shipping yet. Furthermore, the previous darling gadget of the tech industry – the netbook – is looking increasingly irrelevant, like a new design of horse coming after the launch of the Model T Ford.

“True artists ship” – Steve Jobs.

Even so, even if everybody has a tablet computer on the market in 2011, Apple are probably going to release iPad version 2 this year, and by 2012 – predicts Gruber – they will be ready with a third generation iPad that has a display with double the current model’s resolution (think of the shift from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4).

So Apple are at least two years ahead of their competitors, in other words.