Apple's grip on the multi-billion-dollar tablet computer industry is showing the first signs of loosening, as arch-rival Samsung doubled its market share in the last quarter.
The Silicon Valley company's share of global tablet sales fell to 44% in the final three months of the year, down from 52% a year earlier. Samsung, the South Korean company that makes Galaxy tablets, more than doubled its stake to 15pc, according to research firm IDC.
Although Apple's tablet sales rose over the period, the ground gained by Samsung underlines the increasing threat the US company faces in a market it reinvented with the introduction of the iPad in 2010.
Worldwide tablet sales rose 75% to 52.5m over the quarter, IDC said, as consumers ditched desktop PCs for the growing selection of tablet devices on sale.
The haemorrhaging of the PC market is forcing companies from Microsoft to Hewlett-Packard to sharpen their efforts to win a share of the tablet market that IDC forecasts will have sales of almost 300m by 2016. While others battle to gain a foothold in the market, it is the clash between Apple and Samsung that has taken centre stage over the last 12 months. Apple scored a victory over its Korean rival last year when a US judge ruled that Samsung had infringed patents protecting the design of the iPhone.
A separate report yesterday offered encouragement for Apple after showing that last quarter it toppled Samsung as the biggest seller of mobile phones in America.
Helped by the introduction of the iPhone 5 in September, it took 34% of the market, eclipsing Samsung's 32%, according to Strategy Analytics.
?Japanese giants Panasonic and Sharp have offered a reminder of the struggles now facing the consumer electronic companies that once dominated the industry.
Fierce competition in the television market, strategic errors and the strong yen hitting export markets resulted in Panasonic racking up losses of $6.8bn in the first nine months of the year, double 2011's figure, the company said on Friday.
Sharp, which has put its Osaka headquarters up for sale, said it lost $4.6bn.