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Super-light notebooks not a hit with consumers

gadgets Updated: Oct 03, 2012 12:23 IST


High prices plus competition from smartphones and tablets mean that ultrabook PCs are failing to sell in high numbers.

Ultrabooks, the super-slim, super-light, super-quiet notebook PCs that were meant to revolutionize the market are failing to entice users away from other gadgets.

Hopes had been high that 2012 would be the year that these ultra-portable computers really took off and sales of 22 million units were predicted. However, the latest IHS iSuppli Compute Platforms Topical Report, published Monday, shows that these estimates were way off the mark and due to a combination of ineffective marketing, competition in the market and their comparatively high cost, only 10.3 million ultrabooks are now predicted to ship by the end of the year.

"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, the report's author. "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."

Issues surrounding marketing and price can be overcome -- especially as ultrabook sales increase -- but competition from tablets and smartphones can only be addressed through new features and functionality that consumers want or need. And in this respect, the report is optimistic, noting that Intel, the microprocessor giant whose chipset and specifications define the term ultrabook, has been busy unveiling new capabilities for future models. These include touchscreen technology, voice recognition and a host of GPS and motion sensors -- technologies that are key drivers of the success of tablets.

In particular, manufacturers including Acer, HP and Dell have high hopes for ‘convertible' ultrabooks which, via detachable or rotating screens, can be turned into tablets, or have touchsensitive screens, giving users the best of both worlds. For example the Acer Aspire S7 can be opened to 180° and has a 10-point touch display optimized for the forthcoming Windows 8. Meanwhile the Dell XPS Duo 12 has a screen that can spin within its outer frame so that it can be on the inside or the outside of the computer.