Apple is now the out-and-out leader in the world PC market after an incredibly strong end to 2011.

The firm shipped more than 15 million iPads and five million Macs in the final quarter of last year, representing 17 per cent of the entire market, according to research from Canalys.

This took the Cupertino-based firm past HP at the top of the list of global PC manufacturers; while HP lost market share, Apple's went up by six percentage points.

Severe flooding in Thailand badly impacted production of hard disk drives, which in turn slowed overall PC production. But in terms of market share, only Apple and Chinese firm Lenovo managed to increase their slice of the pie.

Canalys analyst Tim Coulling believes HP's ability to respond to Apple continued growth will be down to a third part - Microsoft.

"Currently, HP is pursuing a Windows strategy for its pad portfolio, producing enterprise-focused products, such as the recently launched Slate 2, until the launch of Windows 8," said Mr Coulling.

"However, questions remain over Microsoft's entry into the consumer pad space. While early demonstrations of the Window 8 operating system seem promising, Microsoft must focus its efforts on creating an intuitive user experience that is far less resource intensive."

Looking ahead to next year, a number of companies, such as Lenovo and the fifth-largest PC vendor, Acer, have backed the ultrabook market.

However, research analyst Michael Kauh believes that progress in this sector will be slow at first, due to high prices. Not until chip giant Intel makes its move will things really start developing for ultrabooks.

"We expect Ultrabook volumes to see limited adoption through the first half of 2012, before finally gaining momentum later in the year as price points decline and Intel launches a new line of processors and embarks on an aggressive marketing campaign," said Mr Kauh.ADNFCR-1220-ID-801281465-ADNFCR
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