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Ultrabook sales fall short of expectations

Posted: 03 Oct 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IHS? ultrabook? microprocessor? PC industry? accelerometers?

IHS has reduced its previous forecast for global ultrabook sales from 22 million units early this year to just 10.3 million for 2012. The market research firm has pointed out the high pricing and scant marketing devoted to boost the sales of the device as the reasons behind this poor expectation.

Along with the revised figures for the year, shipments have also been modified for the next year, projected to rise to 44 million in 2013, down from the older outlook of 61 million.

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Figure 1: Global Ultrabook Unit Shipment Forecast (Thousands of Units). Source: IHS iSuppli Resource.

"There once was a time when everyone knew the 'Dude you're getting a Dell' slogan. Nowadays no one can remember a tag line for a new PC product, including for any single ultrabook," said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for computer platforms at IHS. "So far, the PC industry has failed to create the kind of�buzz and excitement�among consumers that is required to propel ultrabooks into the mainstream. This is especially a problem amid all the hype surrounding media tablets and smartphones. When combined with other factors, including prohibitively high pricing, this means that ultrabook sales will not meet expectations in 2012."

Even so, challenges stemming from the nebulous marketing and unappealing price surrounding the ultrabook can be overcome, IHS predicted, paving the way for shipments to rise by more than 300 per cent in 2013. Growth is also expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with shipments expanding to 95 million�units by 2016. This will drive long-term growth for devices used in ultrabooks, including�motion sensors.

Beyond the marketing shortcomings, ultrabooks need to get more systems down to the $600 price range in order to hit the volume level needed to enter the mainstream, down from prices at the $1,000 level now.�If ultrabooks�using the new Windows 8 OS come close to the $600-$700 range next year, while adding in an attractive new consumer feature such as touchscreen,a good chance exists for strong sales in 2013. If notand ultrabooks stay at the $1,000 leveltheir sales will continue to struggle in 2013�as they must compete against lower-priced options, such as tablets and smartphones.

Another factor causing IHS to reduce the forecast is Intel's increasingly stringent set of definitions for ultrabooks. Based on these designations, many notebooks once called ultrabooks now are being classified as "ultrathins."

While Intel hasn't given up on ultrabooks in 2012, the company turned its attention to next year, when it believes that everything will come together with the mid-2013 introduction of the company's new microprocessordubbed Haswell. Intel described 2013 as a once-in-a-decade opportunity for companies to reinvent the PC, with its new Haswell microprocessor catalysing the ultrabook revolution.

Haswell, Intel's fourth-generation core microprocessor family, will offer better performance with lower power consumption. Because of these attributes, Haswell will serve as the main core microprocessor for ultrabooks. The microprocessor will provide Intel Identity Protection Technology to improve security, and will also support multiple displays and high-definition 4K monitors with DisplayPort 1.2.

The company also provided a survey showing that when consumers are given a choice, touch was chosen as a desired feature 80 per cent of the time.

Intel highlighted convertible form factors for ultrabooks, calling them the "best of both worlds." These notebooks with detachable screens work as a traditional clamshell mobile PCs, but they can also be converted into tablets by pulling the screen off the keyboard.

Other prominent new features being incorporated into the next-generation ultrabooks are voice recognition; security features; multiple sensors including GPS, accelerometers and gyroscopes; and hand-gesture recognition, an attractive option for the gaming market.

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