Amid high pricing and a lack of effective marketing to draw consumer’s attention away from other hot-selling mobile gadgets, global ultrabook shipments are falling short of expectations in 2012, prompting market observers to cut its near-term forecast for the next-generation notebooks.
An estimated 10.3 million ultrabooks will ship worldwide in 2012, according to IHS iSuppli. This is down from the previous forecast issued earlier this year of 22 million units. In the newly adjusted forecast for 2012, more than half of the shipments for the year are expected to come in the fourth quarter. Along with the revised figures for 2012, 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.
“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,” said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS.
Even so, challenges stemming from the nebulous marketing and unappealing price surrounding the ultrabook can be overcome, IHS predicts, paving the way for shipments to rise by more than 300% 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 $1000 level now. If ultrabooks using the new Windows 8 operating system 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 not, their sales will continue to struggle in 2013 as they must compete against lower-priced options, such as tablets and smartphones.
“With the economy languishing, ultrabook sellers may have trouble finding buyers at the current pricing, especially with fierce competition from new mobile computing gadgets such as the iPhone 5, Kindle Fire HD and forthcoming Microsoft Surface,” said Mr. Stice.
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".
Intel believes that its code-named Haswell processor due in mid-2013 will help to revolutionize PCs in general and ultrabooks in particular. At the recent IDF trade-show, the chip giant described 2013 as a once-in-a-decade opportunity for companies to reinvent the PC, with its new Haswell microprocessor catalyzing the ultrabook revolution.