Analysis: Will Ultrabooks see mainstream adoption?

Analysis: Will Ultrabooks see mainstream adoption?

The market share among Ultrabooks providers may change dramatically over the next two years

With a greater focus being placed on mobility for both businesses and consumers, Ultrabooks are increasingly becoming a high-growth segment of the PC market.

Thin and lightweight (less than 1.8kg with a screen size of 11 inches or over), Ultrabooks, as defined by Intel, offer longer battery life utilising new low power CPUs integrated with instant-on capability, all without compromising performance.

PC vendors and Intel have marketed Ultrabooks to reinvigorate end-user sales and the ecosystems of mobile PCs, including innovative hardware convergence of form factors and user experiences through applications that compete against media tablets.

As a result, Gartner believes that Ultrabooks are becoming positioned for more mainstream adoption.

This market segment originated to server highly mobile business professionals in design, cost, and functionality; those who require a standard PC experience, but with much less weight, especially for regular business travellers) and were prepared to pay extra for that.

That is changing fast as Apple’s MacBook Air PC, in particular, has helped to popularise this segment with consumers. The consumer share of Ultrabook purchases reached 48 per cent in the first half of 2012.

According to Gartner’s research, the top six leading brands of Ultrabook are Apple (MacBook Air), Lenovo (ThinkPad X Series), Toshiba (Portege), HP (Folio), ASUS (UX31), and Samsung (Series 9 and 7).

The challenge

In taking this market mainstream, the challenge is to offer proactive products at lower prices without limiting performance too much. With materials becoming lighter, thinner and cheaper (and with Intel pushing its Ultrabook strategy), Gartner believes that Ultrabooks will take up a mainstream position in the next three years.

The adoption of Ultrabooks depends in part on price. Gartner is expecting that the share of Ultrabooks will reach 12 per cent of the consumer mobile PC market in 2012.

According to a Gartner survey, 47 per cent of mobile PCs were priced between $US500 and $US799 in 2011.

Intel’s 2012 price target for lower-end consumer Ultrabook models is $US699 and an average selling price of $US799.

With interest growing in Ultrabooks, Intel aims to help PC OEMs and original design manufacturers (ODMs) make Ultrabooks much thinner and lighter with lower power consumption CPUs. Haswell consumes 20 times less power in standby mode compared to processors based on Ivy Bridge.

Ultrabooks include many of the features found on media tablets, as a way to help PC vendors remain competitive against tablets. Intel’s target is to have 40 per cent of consumer mobile PCs use the Ultrabook format in 2012.

To help grow this market, resellers need to manage the margins for Ultrabooks carefully. Ultrabooks will need an average selling price (ASP) below $US900 to compete with MacBook Air.

The market share among Ultrabooks providers may change dramatically over the next one to two years, as PC providers vie to differentiate their offerings via marketing, pricing, and features.

Chae-gi Lee is research director at Gartner.

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