In case you needed more evidence of Apple's massive success over the last year, market research group NPD says that not only was the company the number one US consumer electronics brand in 2011, it was also the third largest electronics retailer in the country. Apple's retail stores trailed only Walmart and Best Buy in sales, beating fourth-place competitors Staples and Amazon, although it's likely that sales through the Apple site are also counted in that number. And Apple products themselves made up 19 percent of consumer electronics sales dollars in the fourth quarter of 2011, almost twice as much as the next brand, Hewlett-Packard.

Of the top five consumer electronics brands, Apple was the only one to post a sales increase (of 36 percent) in 2011. The rest of the top five — HP, Samsung, Sony, and Dell — all saw declines of between 3 and 21 percent. From what we can see, that's partially because the only two categories that grew in 2011 were tablets / e-readers and mobile phones, both of which are dominated by Apple. Apple still has competition in global markets, but it's clearly time to stop talking about it as an underdog and recognize its place among the giants of consumer electronics.