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Like most everybody in and around the IT industry I’ve been following the hoopla leading up to this week’s launch of the Apple iPad with great fascination. Would the inventor of the iPod and iPhone and the company that successfully commercialized the graphical user interface and mouse originally invented by Xerox, finally give the tablet PC mass appeal? Certainly its track record would indicate that if any company could, it’s Apple.

While reading various items about the product I had an epiphany — Apple has become the very thing it had early in its history railed against. Apple has become Big Brother, or at least a version that stands in stark contrast to its iconic image as a rebel.

If it’s not becoming the Orwellian monster it depicted in its stunning TV ad for the 1984 SuperBowl that introduced the Macintosh computer, it certainly is extending its increasing dominance of the media market. However, unlike the IBM targeted in that ad a quarter century ago, or Microsoft’s more recent efforts to branch out from its captive OS and desktop application markets, Apple has given multiple examples of why this effort should be at least applauded, if not welcomed.

While it took another 11 years for Microsoft to get it right with Windows 95, Apple first popularized the GUI that we all use today. Today, Mac sales continue to soar and strongly outpace the growth of the more popular Windows PC.

The iPod revolutionized the music industry with technology that resonated with audiences young and old. But more significantly, Apple put together most of the key players in the industry to make music more readily available — and affordable — through its iTunes offering. Similar arrangements were made for TV and movies, broadening the appeal, and Apple’s control.

There are hundreds of companies that make cell phones, but it was the iPhone which turned the industry upside down and scored another incredible success for Apple. Opening up the device to third-party application developers and then making those available through its App Store was another stroke of genius that paid big dividends.

With the iPad, Apple is looking to cement its domination of the media industry, adding books and news content, and a form factor that should be much more appealing than that of the iPod for viewing TV, films, videos and Web surfing. If it wins this battle, it will be the preferred vendor for all portable media device formats, and will have a virtual stranglehold on how that content is packaged and sold to these segments.

If you want proof, just take a look at Apple’s latest results, released the day before the iPad announcement. For its fiscal Q1 2010, revenues were $15.68 billion, gross margins rose and net profits came in at $3.38 billion. Mac sales rose 33 percent year-over-year, iPhone sales were up 100 percent, while iPod shipments dropped 8 percent, but still turned in respectable numbers with 21 million units sold.

Move over Big Brother, Apple has arrived!