After seeing the impressive sales of Apple’s latest iPad, I wonder if any other company can match them. More than 3 million “iPad 3s” were sold in their first week, and millions more will be sold by the end of the year. One estimate predicts nearly $40 billion in 2012.

I haven’t seen a detailed breakdown of tablet sales lately, but I wonder if the rest of the competition together can match that. I’ve heard that Apple’s share of the tablet market is about 70%. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is second, but the rest are far, far behind.

All of the test reports and comparison articles say the iPad is the best tablet. If you were going to buy a tablet, which one would you buy? And just think of the more than 600,000 apps. Even if you aren’t a big app user, the potential would make you feel like you were investing in a valuable product. I don’t own a tablet, but if I did buy one it would be an iPad. The only reason not to buy an iPad is probably price.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Apple has the world’s admiration. The company has captured the high ground with its image and success, and it can back it all up with solid technology, marketing, and even support. How do you compete with that?

The Contenders

A dozen or so companies including Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Lenovo, Dell, and RIM believe they can come up with a legitimate iPad competitor. They’ll need deep pockets, as development costs are high and margins are slim. And margins are even slimmer if you want to beat Apple’s new high-resolution screen.

These companies need a seriously superior feature or benefit or product as well as world-class marketing to sell it. You probably won’t beat Apple at the apps game. Maybe for apps, quality and focus are more important than quantity. Yet quantity makes developers want to write apps for a platform. Oh well…

Amazon has done well with its Kindle Fire, though. The company has sold millions of units, but it isn’t a direct Apple competitor. The Fire is a high end e-reader designed for books, video, and other stuff Amazon sells. There’s some overlap with the iPad, which also is a reader. Both use Wi-Fi, but Amazon has smartly carved out a niche as the largest and most successful e-reader maker.

With Apple’s astonishing lead in addition to its position as the largest and wealthiest tech company, is there any chance that someone can come along and top it? Probably not, but I suspect some companies will continue to try and end up fighting for the dregs of the market. I thought HP had a chance with its TouchPad, but HP pulled it away so fast, it never had a chance. What a waste. Now it may be too late.

Tablet Alternatives

Is Apple going to kill off the laptop too? The iPad is stealing some market share. PC and laptop sales are down a bit as people buy their second or third screen and find out they can do their e-mail, Web browsing, shopping, and whatever else on a tablet. I doubt Apple will kill the laptop space, but it will dent it. As we put everything in the cloud, the laptop might become an anachronism. Start weaning yourself off of a regular keyboard.

Not everyone is going to buy a tablet. Apple has these consumers covered too with its iPhone. There is some competition here, especially from the Android crowd, but Apple still has a huge share. Apple will probably launch its iPhone5 this summer. It will do everything the iPad can do and more, but with a smaller screen.

The new iPhone will probably have the same high-resolution screen as the iPad. This screen also probably will be larger than past iPhone screens. It likely will be a Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G phone as well. It may even feature near-field communications (NFC). I certainly won’t be going out on a limb if I say that this new iPhone will be a roaring success.

Who can beat Apple? I can’t name anyone. The only companies with enough financial and marketing wherewithal are Google and Microsoft. Yet I don’t see them topping Apple. What do you think? Or is the rest of the industry giving up and letting Apple have all or most of the market?