The new iPad model hitting stores Friday comes with several improvements over the original version but the same price tag, hobbling efforts by rivals at breaking Apple Inc.’s hold on the emerging market for tablet computers, the Associated Press reports. Competitors such as Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. can’t seem to match the iPad’s starting price of $499. Tablets that are comparable to the iPad in features cost hundreds of dollars more, while cheaper tablets are inferior to the iPad in quality. This is highly unusual in the gadget business, where early products, such as the first Blu-ray players or digital cameras, are expensive. Competition then gradually brings prices down. With the iPad, the reverse is happening…

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staff and wire services reports