Apple's success is its brand, which is so strong consumers are unmoved by other products, even if they are cheaper and better-featured, a US journalist observes.

CBS MarketWatch's Bambi Francisco writes: "When it comes to consumers – image can be everything. When image is everything, it's harder for companies to compete on price and features. There are competing products that are cheaper and offer more features. But Apple's brand is just too strong to sway anyone."

It is Apple's image that is key to its brand success, Francisco states: "Apple's brand represents stature, rock-solid industrial design, reliability, and elegant aesthetics. It's a premium that consumers are willing to pay for, and unwilling to sacrifice just for a cheaper price."

She adds: "Apple's the new status symbol of the generation. Kids may not care which brand of jeans they're wearing these days, but it's absolutely not cool if you don't have an Apple."

Looking forward

Of course the longevity of Apple's popularity is anyone's guess, Francisco predicts: "It will require innovation and staying on the cutting edge of cool."

In order to stay on top Apple may need to learn the lessons of history. Dorado Capital Management's Brian Blair told Francisco: "I think Apple learned its lesson from Microsoft's eventual dominance. They are showing more flexibility with licensing and pursuing multiple platforms through their relationship with Hewlett Packard on the HP + iPod and by moving the iTunes platform to cell phones with their relationship with Motorola."