A new report from analyst firm Juniper Research forecasts that shipments of Ultrabooks will grow at three times the rate of tablets over the next five years. However, tablets volume will remain higher, with 253 million shipped in 2016, compared with 178 million Ultrabooks.
The report finds that while vendors have quickly responded to Apple’s launch of the iPad with an array of competing products, the industry has been slow to respond to 2008’s Macbook Air; leading vendors only launched the first Ultrabooks — a new category in mobile computing driven by the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, Intel — in late 2011.
While the market is bursting with new products post-CES, a number of challenges remain for the industry. As we have seen in the tablet market, without products which are significantly differentiated from those of Apple in terms of price and features, gaining traction for its competitors is a difficult value proposition. Furthermore, Intel’s Ultrabook specs bring their own challenges.
According to report author Daniel Ashdown: “While Intel’s control of the brand ensures that Ultrabooks stand out from traditional notebooks, vendors face a balancing act in terms of product strategy. Meeting Intel’s specification secures brand status and funding, but the step-change from notebooks means many of today’s Ultrabooks are too expensive for many consumers.”
Other key findings from the report include: Flash-based storage — behind many of the enhancements in Ultrabooks — provides superior performance, which comes at a price, but vendors will need to augment solid state drives with hard disk drives or cloud storage in the long term; Windows 8 will play a pivotal role in driving Ultrabook adoption, with extended battery life, always-on-always-connected and other functionalities coming with Microsoft’s next OS; Netbooks shipments will comprise just a third of today’s volumes by 2016, as tablets and low-cost, but superior performance notebooks continue to cannibalise this short-lived segment.