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Why Ultrabooks are falling well short of Intel's targets

Dell XPS Ultrabook

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 2 Oct 2012 at 11:01

An analyst firm has slashed by half its 2012 sales prediction for Ultrabooks, but lower prices and better chips could mean they eventually grab a third of the laptop market.

Ultrabooks first landed last year, as part of a $300m marketing campaign by Intel to boost innovation in the laptop market, push up margins for PC makers, and help the chip maker fight back against ARM, which has enjoyed greater success in the tablet market.

Analyst firm IHS iSuppli initially predicted 22m Ultrabooks would ship globally this year, but has slashed that to 10.3m, with more than half shipping in the fourth quarter.

With IDC predicting 209m laptops will ship this year, that means Ultrabooks are grabbing less than 5% of the market - well below Intel's hope of 40% market share by the end of this year.

Shipments will pick up in 2013, however, with IHS expecting shipments of 44m - down from its first prediction of 61m.

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

However, Stice suggested those problems can be easily overcome, and by 2016, IHS expects 95m Ultrabooks will ship - grabbing almost a third of the total laptop market worldwide.

In order for Ultrabooks to succeed, IHS said manufacturers and retailers need to get closer to the $600 to $700 price range.

"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," Stice said.

At the moment, the average launch price of Ultrabooks released or announced in the US over the past year is $1,027 - well above the $510 average selling price of Windows-based laptops, according to analyst firm NPD in June.

However, Intel promised Ultrabook prices would fall to $699 this year, with HP already getting closer to the mark with a $799 Envy systems.

Devices such as HP's $579 Sleekbook - which runs AMD's chips, so can't be called an Ultrabook - may be the the ones to watch, noted IHS. "Another factor causing IHS to reduce the forecast is Intel’s increasingly stringent set of definitions for Ultrabooks," IHS said added. "Based on these designations, many notebooks once called Ultrabooks now are being classified as 'ultrathins'."

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User comments

> Analyst firm IHS iSuppli initially predicted 22m Ultrabooks would ship globally this year

Perhaps they meant to say that 22nm Ultrabooks would ship globally this year.

By DarienGS on 2 Oct 2012

Word

In all honesty only a certain subset of people will ever throw down £1000+ onto the table for a laptop when across the row is a £270 special.

By rhythm on 2 Oct 2012

@DarienGS
Pardon? What does 22nm mean to anyone.

By curiousclive on 2 Oct 2012

@curriousclive

22nm is the latest chip manufacturing process introduced by Intel. 22nm (nanometers) refers to the size of the smallest features that make up the processor. It was a play on words!

As for this analyst, what a joke. "Revising their figures". No, not revising. It is only a forecast before the event. We are now three quarters of the way through the year so what you are actually doing is confessing that you got it horribly wrong now that the sales data is actually available. Not much of a forecaster if their estimate was more than 100% over!

By Bassey1976 on 2 Oct 2012

Too expensive

Windows 8 is on the horizon, tablets and smartphones have become the mobile media platforms of choice for ltos of users, there are far cheaper laptops that are portable enough for serious mobile productivity. £1k is far too expensive for a machine that will likely be obsolete within the next 12 months, surely? That, and their performance is never rated that highly. Perhaps decent graphics cores (if you can get past thermal barriers) and touchscreens will make them more appealing at the £1k price range, but for my money they are not worth it at the moment.

By Ischaria on 2 Oct 2012

Too expensive

Windows 8 is on the horizon, tablets and smartphones have become the mobile media platforms of choice for ltos of users, there are far cheaper laptops that are portable enough for serious mobile productivity. £1k is far too expensive for a machine that will likely be obsolete within the next 12 months, surely? That, and their performance is never rated that highly. Perhaps decent graphics cores (if you can get past thermal barriers) and touchscreens will make them more appealing at the £1k price range, but for my money they are not worth it at the moment.

By Ischaria on 2 Oct 2012

Slower to the market

A part of this story is simply that Ultrabooks have been slower to the market than initially forecast. So half of the projected volume for 2012 is forecast to occur in Q4. The numbers will grow from there. Agreed there are lots of headwinds for an expensive device in this economic climate, and that is another part of the story. But availability of desirable (even if not affordable) devices is just starting.

By Philip on 2 Oct 2012

Intel missed the point of a PC

Let's face it, if people want an Ultrabook they'll buy a Mac.

PCs are bought because people want cheap plastic finishes and cheaper prices. With so many PC makers out there, price differentiation is a no go area for the parts-bin raiding PC makers. That means profit margins will always be too low to breed real innovation, except maybe in the software. Intel had a good idea, but missed the point. PCs are known as cheap alternatives, like Kia, Hyundai, Daewoo and Proton cars. Nobody pays Ferrari or Bentley money for a Kia.

By SwissMac on 2 Oct 2012

Why would I buy an ultrabook?

Modern notebooks, even the very expensive, very thin ones, are all built like glorified DVD players: Glossy screen, widescreen, keyboard is an afterthought, and you're expected to perform finger-ballet to get anything done. A tablet is less unwieldy. So why bother?

I may be a minority in my opinion, but at least I have one: For a notebook to be worth the investment I'd like to be able to get work done with it, comfortably.

And since most of what I do is text-based and I look at the screen a lot in strange places, that might have annoying overhead lighting, and I need to type a lot and I positively hate to have to remove my hands from the keyboard to move the cursor, and I hate even more for a thumb necessarily hovering over a touchpad (touch-typist here) to accidentally move the mouse, well... it means I require something that plain isn't on the market these days.

For what is there is plainly not centered around professionals, but uniformly targets people that don't know any better, that need to be pulled in with promises of fancy features that look shinier than they're useful, and so on.

It's 2012 and the market expects you to be a hunt-and-peck "typist". Ho hum.

By Cellar on 3 Oct 2012

intel's wishful thinking

"Hey," they say, "apple made a splash with the air, didn't they?"

"Why don't we up our profits a bit by pushing the rest of the manufacturers to build something similar? We'll even provide a reference design!"

Syeah, I don't think that's quite how it works. Bit of an itanic there, intel.

The macbook air has that je ne sais quoi that lets apple command a premium. But they're apple. The rest makes things that are fungible or nearly so, and you can't command a price premium for that. The lack of weight and thickness is a gimmick, an eye-catcher, a marvel, but not something anybody actually needs all that much. You don't buy status symbols in bulk, intel.

So the only way to make this ultrabook[r]-by-intel[tm] work, is to destroy the concept: By dropping the price and converting it into a commodity.

And that implies a sameness that is exactly what intel claims to be countering with their "innovation" line. Making everyone bring the same thing to market, even if new, isn't innovation. That same appalling sameness we already have in the market. It's just pushing the manufacturers to make thinner devices. That can do less. My, how useful.

By Cellar on 3 Oct 2012

Ultrabook vs Mac

@Swissmac, 5m ultrabooks in Q4 will be 50% more than the whole Mac laptop range (which runs at about 3.5m per quarter). So if people want an ultrabook they will buy one, not a Mac.

By Philip on 3 Oct 2012

One of the problems with ultrabooks ...

... is that there always seems to be something better coming along quite soon.

Obviously this is a problem with all tech stuff but with ultrabooks the 'soon' always seems sooner and for such an expensive product it must often seem a good idea to wait.

By qpw3141 on 3 Oct 2012

Graphs!

Every time I load a news article with one of those graphs on it causes Firefox to crash.

Why use fancy javascript when a static image will do.

By peterm2k on 3 Oct 2012

@Cellar

Sounds like you need a Thinkpad (or similar professional laptop, like a Tecra). You might find the pointing nub quite handy - not to mention the proper, non-isolation keyboard!

You won't get professional features like those in the Macbooks (AIR or otherwise), which we all know are dedicated to fashionistas and Starbucks residents (who’ve been working on the first page of their novel for the last five years). Why pay more for a machine that does the same job but with more limitations?

Like people in Chelsea who go out to buy Range Rovers, when their requirements suggest that the far more reliable, economical and agile Hyundai would be a better choice than the Indian car. But then the marque would reveal sensibility, and they probably wouldn’t want that.

Or those silly people who hold up their enormous iPads at concerts to take blurry low-light pictures (and hope that everyone will marvel at their Apple-associated coolness) when any cheapy Panasonic Lumix at half the price would give far superior pictures, fit in your pocket, and not block everyone behind you.

That's what the PC is about: sense over style. Where some non-techy people see plastic, the less fashion-conscious among us see a material that simply makes sense, that can be engineered to be thinner, lighter and yet as strong and tactile as steel.

If you’re only familiar with the limited specifications within the Apple empire, you’ll certainly find the PC market a breath of fresh air. You have the freedom to look for the features you want, nothing more and nothing less, and at a price that you find acceptable.

You refuse to pay a premium for the fast-yet-obscure data port that nobody uses (not until the PC market introduces it to the unwashed masses)? Fine, simply choose one of the thousands of models without it!

You want the soon-to-be-ubiquitous USB3 interface that the whole world (even Apple, finally) is adopting? No problem, you can have that, and at a reasonable price too - all thanks to competition in the marketplace and that old enemy of Apple: choice.

By TheHonestTruth on 3 Oct 2012

Dear TheHonestTruth

Yes, I'd love a usable thinkpad back. I still have my 570 (the backlight has gone pink, it needs convincing to get it to boot, and its battery has long since died) and two dead T23s (PCB haircracks), and, well, new ones aren't really an option.

These days you can have the non-glare screen if you look hard enough, and the trackpoint([tm]) left in as an afterthought. But that's about it, and you only get it grudgingly.

The new keyboard is crap, there's windows keys eating up space better spent on embiggening keys I *do* use, the fn should move one over to the right (I need ctrl in the corner), they're widescreens down to the last of them so nowhere can you get enough vertical pixels, and you can get either really small ones or ones that have a numpad I never use but that would shift my hands uncomfortably when using the thing on my lap, say, and niggles like that.

In short, they've gone quite a ways to emulate everyone else. Where is the differentiation? The case colour? They've been working hard to move away from black, too.

They've been at it for quite a while too. Eg. the T40 line did away with the serial port but kept the (much bigger) parallel port, because printers were all going usb or network anyway yet network devices kept their serial ports for management, and still do. That sort of thing has me go like, what are they thinking? It means they're looking at the wrong people to give them ideas: Suited focus groups, not people getting shit done. Certainly not even touch-typists.

The thinkpad range was very good, once upon a time. To me, it lost many of its key differentiation points over the years, so why spend the extra? Might as well get an apple for the money, and many do. To me it would mean to spend a lot and get something that would annoy me a lot. So I don't spend. Instead I keep an eye out on the second hand market, and hope something suitable comes along before I really need it.

By Cellar on 3 Oct 2012

It's all about the numbers

In short, PC manufacturers appear to me to be marketing dickheads. They seem to think that having a long stream of numbers and a bunch of letters from the end of the alphabet in order to identify their merchandise somehow makes it desirable. It doesn't it just makes it bloody hard to remember WTF is what.

Apple keeps it real simple. You can have a Macbook Air or a Macbook Pro and a couple of screen sizes for each. It's hard not to understand the offer on the table.

Now look at the PC guys. How many ranges of machine does each manufacturer produce and how are they labelled. Who invented "UX31A R4003V" as a moniker by which to refer to a machine? An idiot? Far too many lines, far too much choice, far too much confusion for Joe Public. How on earth are you supposed to figure out which machine is the right one for you?

Look at the way Dell presents its goods - a consumer line and a business line, and separate websites (as near as dammit) for each. Why? Why do I have to visit the business website to buy a Precision laptop? Even the Dell Outlet is divided this way. For the consumer this arbitrary delineation is irrational and irritating. On top of that the options available within each product line (e.g. XPS 15) are equally obtuse. There are too many "standard" specs on offer, but the options available on top of each starting point are variable. So you have to hunt and peck to find a combination which works for you. Just have one entry level spec per product line and then a simple series of upgrade options to that one machine.

Streamline the range. Simplify the product naming and for God's sake use catchy names that stick in the mind and not this ludicrous mathematical memory test.

For the record, I've been buying Windows machines (mostly Dell) since 1998 and I really don't want to get into bed with Apple, but they certainly have marketing nailed. Any idiot could understand Apple's product lineup. Not so with the rest of them.

By tdodd1 on 4 Oct 2012

Ultrabook spec - still not worth buying (yet)

Hi

I have been itching to buy an ultrabook for several months now. The reason why I still have not bought one yet is because I am still waiting for a decent specification.

1. Resolution - this is the main problem for me. Current ultrabooks are pathetic resolution - esp compared to iPADs. Most arent even 1080p !
2. Weight. Most high res laptops are over 2.5 Kg. This is dreadful.
3. Cost. Yes there are some (a very few) latpops out ther that match my spec, (e.g. from Sony) but they cost about GBP 2000 - which is an outrageous amount to spend on a device that will be near worthless in 3-4 years.
4. RAM. Because Windows is slow resource hungry I need at least 8GM of RAM. I have 4GB on my current Windows7 PC and it's not enough!

Here are my requirements:
- Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080 pixels) or better
- Weight: Less than 1.5Kg
- Memory: ideally 250GB
- RAM: 8GB
- On from hyberndation time: "Instant"? (i.e. less that 2-3 seconds)
- Battery: 5+ hours
- Cost: Less than GBP 1200

Personally I absolutely (dumbed down) Apple and (hiden media files) iTunes with a passion. But if I cant find anything by Christmas, I shall sell my soul and buy an iPad 3.

- Resolution: 2048 x 1536
- Weight: 0.66KG
- Memory: 64GB [too small but o/s is lighter than windows]
- On from hybernation: Instant
- Battery: "up to 10 hours watching video" [but cant be replaced]
- RAM: ??
- Cost: GBP 660

So, come on Ultrabook manufacturers! Get your sh*t together, get with the Apple pace (or at least vaguely near it) and you can have my money.

Until then, no deal.

J

By ship69 on 4 Oct 2012

Ultrabook spec - still not worth buying (yet)

Hi

I have been itching to buy an ultrabook for several months now. The reason why I still have not bought one yet is because I am still waiting for a decent specification.

1. Resolution - this is the main problem for me. Current ultrabooks are pathetic resolution - esp compared to iPADs. Most arent even 1080p !
2. Weight. Most high res laptops are over 2.5 Kg. This is dreadful.
3. Cost. Yes there are some (a very few) latpops out ther that match my spec, (e.g. from Sony) but they cost about GBP 2000 - which is an outrageous amount to spend on a device that will be near worthless in 3-4 years.
4. RAM. Because Windows is slow resource hungry I need at least 8GM of RAM. I have 4GB on my current Windows7 PC and it's not enough!

Here are my requirements:
- Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080 pixels) or better
- Weight: Less than 1.5Kg
- Memory: ideally 250GB
- RAM: 8GB
- On from hyberndation time: "Instant"? (i.e. less that 2-3 seconds)
- Battery: 5+ hours
- Cost: Less than GBP 1200

Personally I absolutely (dumbed down) Apple and (hiden media files) iTunes with a passion. But if I cant find anything by Christmas, I shall sell my soul and buy an iPad 3.

- Resolution: 2048 x 1536
- Weight: 0.66KG
- Memory: 64GB [too small but o/s is lighter than windows]
- On from hybernation: Instant
- Battery: "up to 10 hours watching video" [but cant be replaced]
- RAM: ??
- Cost: GBP 660

So, come on Ultrabook manufacturers! Get your sh*t together, get with the Apple pace (or at least vaguely near it) and you can have my money.

Until then, no deal.

J

By ship69 on 4 Oct 2012

Ultrabooks - still not worth buying (yet) [RESUBMITTED]

Hi

I have been itching to buy an ultrabook for several months now. The reason why I still have not bought one yet is because I am still waiting for a decent specification.

1. Resolution - this is the main problem for me. Current ultrabooks are pathetic resolution - esp compared to iPADs. Most arent even 1080p !
2. Weight. Most high res laptops are over 2.5 Kg. This is dreadful.
3. Cost. Yes there are some (a very few) latpops out ther that match my spec, (e.g. from Sony) but they cost about GBP 2000 - which is an outrageous amount to spend on a device that will be near worthless in 3-4 years.
4. RAM. Because Windows is slow resource hungry I need at least 8GM of RAM. I have 4GB on my current Windows7 PC and it's not enough!

Here are my requirements:
- Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080 pixels) or better
- Weight: Less than 1.5Kg
- Memory: ideally 250GB
- RAM: 8GB
- On from hyberndation time: "Instant"? (i.e. less that 2-3 seconds)
- Battery: 5+ hours
- Cost: Less than GBP 1200

Personally I absolutely (dumbed down) Apple and (hiden media files) iTunes with a passion. But if I cant find anything by Christmas, I shall sell my soul and buy an iPad 3.

- Resolution: 2048 x 1536
- Weight: 0.66KG
- Memory: 64GB [too small but o/s is lighter than windows]
- On from hybernation: Instant
- Battery: "up to 10 hours watching video" [but cant be replaced]
- RAM: ??
- Cost: GBP 660

So, come on Ultrabook manufacturers! Get your sh*t together, get with the Apple pace (or at least vaguely near it) and you can have my money.

Until then, no deal.

J

By ship69 on 4 Oct 2012

Apologies

Hi

Apologies for the duplicate submit. I waited a couple of minutes and then did a couple of page reloads and there was still no sign, so then I resubmitted...

J

By ship69 on 4 Oct 2012

@ship69

Hi, from reading your multiple posts above, it sounds like an iPad (or anything Apple) would be definitely, without a doubt, the right choice for you.

However, look into the Asus Zenbook or Samsung Series9 if you want an ultrabook (laptop) that meets all of those requirements. There’s also the Macbook AIR, but its display is lower resolution than either the Asus or Samsung.

If you want a tablet, on the other hand, then the top spec Transformer Infinity offers a similar display and processor specification, plus a decent keyboard for around the price of that 64gb iPad. You also get almost twice the battery life and the added flexibility of a USB socket and full-sized SD card port.

If you don’t know the difference, then I suggest you get an Apple.

By TheHonestTruth on 4 Oct 2012

@Cellar

I just bought a refurbished ThinkPad T400, after carefully checking the reputation of the vendor - it was cheap, and seems to be in very nice condition. If you think the new ones are overpriced, maybe you should go that direction.

By greenknight32 on 5 Oct 2012

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