Dell ultrabook sales better than expected: Who needs a tablet after all?

Summary:Dell's ultrabook sales are three-times what it had expected, marking a rising boom in enterprise sales. Who needs an iPad when the next-generation notebooks are on sale?

Dell's XPS 13 ultrabook is faring better than it expected, the company said.

Sam Burd, Dell's vice president of consumer and SMB product group, pegged the figure at a little less than three-times the expected demand. The ultrabook went on sale in late February.

Almost half of the sales dedicated to business customers, Dell's product marketing director Alison Gardner told Reuters, but shied away from revealing hard numbers.

Apple's MacBook Air threw a spanner in the laptop market works. Its razor edge thin design and ultra portability forced computer makers into thinking twice about the traditional laptop market. Nobody wants chunk and clunk anymore, and business users know productivity shouldn't and doesn't have to give way for aesthetic design.

Consumers and businesses alike want MacBook Air's, but the price remains far to be desired. Dell had an opportunity to hit back on the pricing front, marketing the product lower than Apple's flagship laptop, but $999 for a matched hardware competitor threw down the Mac vs. PC gauntlet.

It's the MacBook Air for Windows users.

The ultrabook market was and remains a fight-back to Apple's ultrathin laptop. Intel's investment in the ultrabook is clear from its biggest marketing push in a decade. AMD is reportedly working on "ultrathin" alternatives to Intel's ultrabook effort.

Dell's refocused efforts on the enterprise market now brings in half of the company's profit, after the unit doubled in size over the past five to six years. Dell has stakes in the enterprise market and cannot afford to lose out. By grappling with the ultrabook market sooner rather than later, the computer maker retains its competitive edge.

But analysts expect ultrabooks to face fierce competition from tablets in the coming quarters.

IHS iSuppli estimates more than 40 percent of laptop shipments will be ultrabooks by 2015. By then, an ultrabook will be synonymous with "laptop" or "notebook", as the transition between the old and the new increases.

But the tablet market is heavily unbalanced in favour of the iPad, which soaks up more than 60 percent of the market share.

Laptops are for productivity, while tablets give enterprises portability. The post-PC era may be upon us, but the enterprise still has a few years to go until the keyboard can be entirely replaced.

Dell's failure to hit the tablet market hard left the company broken. It aims to relaunch its consumer assault in the tablet space later this year in time for the lucrative Christmas holiday period. The Dell Streak tablet never took off, but its commitment to working with both Android and Windows 8 points to a dual focus on consumer and enterprise hardware.

Intel says PC vendors will likely ship more ultrabooks this year. An Inspiron consumer version of the popular XPS 13 ultrabook will go on sale later.

Image credit: CNET.

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Topics: Dell, iPad, Mobility

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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