Apple has always managed to cast a shadow over gadget shows that it has nothing to do with, and this week it is doing so again but in a role to which the world's richest technology company is unaccustomed.
As gadget aficionados and the world's media walk the show floor at the annual tech and telecommunications fest, Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, it is not necessarily companies unveiling new wares that are top of their minds, but the biggest company of them all . . . with the growing perception that the market is catching it up.
The fact that Apple is not unveiling new products at this week's conference is nothing new - it always announces its new phones, tablets and computers at its own, highly stage-managed events.
But what is troubling those with a devotion to all things Apple, is the increasingly obvious realisation that, where once its mobile products stood head and shoulders above the competition, it has suddenly been drawn back into the pack.
Both the iPhone and the iPad revolutionised, and arguably created the market in which they compete, but in the fast-moving world of consumer electronics there are now flashy competitors from a range of major competitors promising to free consumers from the grip of the iTunes ecosystem.
At MWC, already we have seen a range of new smartphones and tablets from big-name players like Nokia, Sony, Samsung, HP and Acer, and last week an initial look at HTC's new smartphone, the HTC One, sent some reviewers into raptures.
If you add perennial corporate favourite BlackBerry, with its attempts to re-engage the world's phone users, then you get the impression of a hugely competitive fight, which not everyone can survive.
As the ongoing multitude of patent infringement cases around the world demonstrates, it is the battle with Korean giant Samsung that has begun to loosen Apple's grip on the "king of cool" crown. Last December, research from analysts at Telsyte found the surging popularity of Samsung smartphones has led to Australian sales of devices running on Google's Android operating system overtaking Apple's iOS for the first time.
Samsung is due to launch the next generation of its popular Galaxy smartphone, the S4, on March 14, which is likely to have features that significantly outstrip the existing iPhone, and it will then probably have a few months in which to convince people to ditch Apple, before it launches a new phone.
A problem Apple has yet to resolve since the passing of Steve Jobs is the perception that he was the sole creative and innovative force at the company. Recent releases of tablets and phones have been incremental improvements and form factor changes, rather than market-shaking changes.
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