Future of Ultrabooks Still Very Much in Question

Paul Lilly

As with most technological devices, notebooks have a natural tendency to get smaller, lighter, and faster over time. It's the natural progression of things. Partly in an attempt to speed up the progression towards increasingly capable ultraportable systems, Intel created the Ultrabook specification with a set of guidelines manufacturers must abide by in order to market their systems as such. We've seen some promising Ultrabooks come to market, but will they become the de facto standard Intel envisions? Conflicting reports make that a tough question to answer.

Barely more than a week ago, IHS iSuppli came out and slashed its near-term sales forecasts for Ultrabooks by more than half from 22 million units to 10.3 million units. According to IHS iSuppli, Ultrabooks cost too much, a problem that's compounded by the fact that industry players have done a poor job marketing these devices. In order for Ultrabooks to make any kind of dent in the mainstream market, the research firm argued that pricing would have to be in the vicinity of $600

"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 Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS.

A new report by GBI Research casts a more positive light on Ultrabooks. GBI Research says 1.3 million Ultrabooks were sold last year, but thanks to falling component prices, it expects that number to balloon to 148.7 million by 2016. By then, Ultrabooks will account for nearly half all notebook sales.

"Although currently viewed as prohibitively expensive, Ultrabook sales will explode in the next five years, making up 47 percent of annual notebook sales by just 2016," GBI Research predicts .

Pricing might not be the only thing holding Ultrabooks back. If there's a common complaint that we see time and again, it's that the display resolution on many Ultrabook models simply isn't high enough. Ultrabooks panels are typically smaller in size than traditional notebooks -- 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches versus 15.6 inches and 17 inches -- but even still, we often hear users lamenting the lack of higher resolutions. Look for that to change, too.

Acer recently announced its Aspire S7 Series, which will ship in the standard 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch sizes, but with Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) screen resolutions. In addition, we're starting to see some 15.6-inch Ultrabooks, such as HP's 6t-1000 and Vizio's CT15 line.

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