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Ultrabook, ultrathin to gain threefold market share increase

Posted: 21 Feb 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ultrabook? ultrathin PC? Haswell? SSD? tablet?

IHS has forecasted that Ultrabooks and other ultrathin PCs will increase their penetration of the notebook market this year as their pricing drops and consumers warm to the flashy convertible form factor. Shipments of the devices will climb to a 28 per cent share of the total mobile PC space, up from just nine per cent last year. As a result, the non-ultrathin class of mobile PCs will see its portion of the market shrink to 72 per cent, down from 91 per cent. Total shipments will amount to 241.6 million this year, compared to 213.3 million in 2012, detailed the market research firm.

The continued evolution of ultrathin PCs, a category that includes Ultrabooks, will drive new computers to higher levels of sales growth and power the expansion of the PC market as a whole, IHS indicated. Despite not performing up to expectations last year, ultrathin prospects are generating more optimism this year, thanks to several favourable factors.

For one, the machines last year were universally expensive, usually costing more than $1,000much higher than the price of regular notebooks. The sticker shock stung consumers, who were already wary because of the weak worldwide economy. That is quickly changing, however, with pricing now declining to the $600 range for entry-level ultrathin systems.

One factor driving the fall in pricing is that costs are dropping for the NAND flash memory used for storage in most ultrathins. Even in ultrathin models where the storage solution consists of a pure solid state drive (SSD) instead of a combined HDD and so-called cache SSD component, prices have also moderated. This has helped make the price proposition for ultrathins more attractive for consumers.

Another variable that will help make ultrathins more appealing this year is the convertible PC form factor, with the display portion of the computer being either flexible or detachable from the rest of the system. Repositioning the display converts the entire system's form factor from being a traditional clamshell notebook into a tablet with touch-screen capabilities.

For its part, Intel has announced an ultra-low-power revision of its Ivy Bridge processor used in Ultrabooks that will run as low as 7W, a considerable drop from 17W before. The lower wattage is especially important for conserving battery powera feature that was not expected to be ready until later this year when Intel is to release Haswell, its fourth-generation processor. Intel clearly wanted to let the world know that it could offer low-power mobile products able to compete with ARM-based tablets such as the Apple iPad.

The third factor in the ultrathin charm offensive this year will come from the glitzy touch-screen panels, which will also become a requirement for Ultrabooks when Haswell is released. The touch-screen feature is appropriately matched to Windows 8, the OS from Microsoft that was designed around a touch interface.

Other sensors in the ultrathins also work with the touch feature. These include hand gesture, voice and NFC.

A full-powered PC with a longer-lasting battery, a form factor convertible to a tablet and an appealing touch-screen display together represent a system with features never previously available on a traditional notebook computer. Such traits, the PC industry believes, will help elevate Ultrabooks and other ultrathin mobile computers to new sales heights this year, concluded IHS.

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