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NPD: Ultrabooks Shine As Overall Notebook Market Struggles

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For all the less-than-flattering things some people say about Ultrabooks -- they're nothing but MacBook Air clones, the "Ultrabook" definition is too broad, etc. -- the long-lasting notebooks appear to be the lone bright star in a Windows notebook market that's struggling overall. Ultrabooks also seem to be doing just what Intel and its OEM partners hoped for: establishing solid demand for premium-priced laptops.

The NPD Group says that even though the notebook market slumped 17 percent overall during the first five months of the year, sales of laptops that cost $700 or more fell off last year's numbers by only three percent.  Ultrabooks account for 11 percent of all $700-plus notebook sales.

In the $900-plus segment -- the slice where the majority of Ultrabook prices fall -- demand is actually up a whopping 39 percent over the same time frame in 2011. The average selling price for Ultrabooks stayed well north of $900 for the first five months of the year before sliding down to $885 in May, NPD reports.

The average selling price for Windows notebooks remains significantly less than the Ultrabook premium, at $510. The NPD expects budget considerations to affect the Ultrabook market soon. "As we head into the crucial back-to-school selling season, lower-cost Ultrabooks, some as low as $699, will be the hot form factor," Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, said in the group's press release.

As well as Ultrabooks are doing, however, they're not selling at the blistering pace Intel was hoping for; the company originally expected Ultrabooks to account for 40 percent of all notebook sales by the end of this year. IHS iSuppli, another research group, doesn't anticipate Ultrabooks being quite that popular until 2015.

Yesterday, the head of Acer's European division downgraded the company's projected 2012 Ultrabook sales, saying that premium-priced notebooks just aren't selling well in the struggling European economy. Sales of €900 to €1,100 laptops are currently only 0.4 percent of the European market, The Register reports.