At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if Apple's MacBook Air provided inspiration for Intel's Ultrabook platform and AMD's push into ultrathin territory, or whether these new generation of thin and light machines represent a natural evolution of the form factor. What matters is which platform will rule the day, and thus seize the lion's share of the market and the financial rewards that come with it. At least one analyst believes that platform belongs to Apple.
Joanne Chien, an analyst with Digitimes Research, notes there's been an aggressive push towards developing increasingly thin and portable notebooks running Windows, but "these vendors are still unlikely to be able to compete with Apple." Her reasoning rests on the fact that MacBook Air shipments accounted for half of the global thin and light market in the second quarter, and are on pace to surpass all non-Apple notebook Ultrabook and ultrathin shipments in the fourth quarter.
Ms. Chien also references shipment declines in June by Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard, which dropped by more than 15 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The rest of the top-six brand vendors increased by 5-10 percent, but are only expected to go up another 1.3 percent sequentially, much lower than in previous years, in which growth hovered around 6-8 percent.
Apple just recently unveiled upgraded MacBook Air models with Ivy Bridge inside. Meanwhile, lower priced Ultrabooks with Ivy Bridge are also starting to emerge, some of which bring an optical drive (like Dell's Inspiron 14z) to the thin and light party. A lot rests on Windows 8 as well, which will debut later this year and undoubtedly give rise to Ultrabooks and ultrathins with touchscreen panels.