While I was reading on my Kindle this morning, I thought about how many other kinds of similar E-Ink readers there are now (Sony's, Kobo, Aluratech, Nook). I realize Kindle wasn't the first E-Ink reader, but my question scopes a lot of technology industries: why all the others all of a sudden?
For example, the iPhone and iPad seemed to start a whirl of buzz about multi-touch screens, both small and large. Now there are several major offshoot brands (and even major brands) with similar technology. As I understand it, though, that technology was "new," as in: nobody had developed it at a reasonable price before.
Similar spurs of innovation could be seen from the notebook computer, flip-top phones, MP3 players, hard disks, flash drives, web startups (complex back-end network infrastructures like cloud computing), etc.
One company comes up with a practical way to distribute or apply the new technology and then all of a sudden, everyone else does.
What enables other companies to release similar, innovative products about the same time as others? Yes, I know it is to compete, but how do they figure out the technology so quickly? Did they happen to be developing it at the same time themselves? Do they reverse-engineer the leading brand? Practically, how do they do it?