Ultrabooks on the rise - but cost remains an issue for many

Skinny laptops shipments to grow faster than tablets, while netbooks are squeezed out...

Skinny laptops shipments to grow faster than tablets, while netbooks are squeezed out...

Shipments of Ultrabooks will grow rapidly over the next few years but still won't catch up with shipments of tablets, according to analysts, while netbooks will continue to decline.

Ultrabook shipments will grown at three times the rate of tablets over the next five years, with 178 million shipped in 2016, but tablets will remain more popular with 253 million shipped, Juniper Research has predicted.

Characteristics of an Ultrabook include a chassis less than 21mm thick, fast startup and a longer battery life of five to eight hours.

Steve Jobs unveiling the first MacBook Air, back in 2008

Steve Jobs unveiling the first MacBook Air, back in 2008Photo: Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

Apple's rivals were quick to respond to the launch of the iPad with their own tablets, which so far have not been particularly successful. But the industry has been slower to respond to 2008's MacBook Air, with the first Ultrabooks only unveiled in late 2011, with a number on display at this year's CES show.

Juniper Research warned that a number of challenges remain for vendors selling the super-skinny laptops - mainly in terms of differentiating their products against the MacBook Air on price or features. That's because these skinny devices come with a heavy price tag, with some weighing in at more than $1,000.

Juniper Research report author Daniel Ashdown said Intel's control of the brand ensures that Ultrabooks stand out from traditional notebooks but warned that 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," he said in a statement.

The analyst said Windows 8 will play a key role in driving Ultrabook adoption, as extended battery life, always-on, always-connected and other functionalities will arrive in Microsoft's next OS.

Juniper Research also predicted that by 2016 netbook shipments will have dropped to just a third of today's volumes as tablets and low-cost notebooks continue to cannibalise what it described as a "short-lived segment".

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