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Ultrabooks? Not this year. Analysts cut sales estimates in half

  • ultrabookretail

    Ultrabooks are seen on display at retail -- but is anyone buying this year? (Laptopmag.com)

  • Ultrabooks-beat-i

    An array of ultrabooks, a sleek new class of laptop meant to give the lagging market a shot in the arm. (Laptopmag.com)

With 2012 entering its closing quarter, the Ultrabook phenomenon hasn't performed quite as phenomenally as expected.  Even though Intel's brain trust has stuck closely to its prediction that the new class of notebook will claim a full 40 percent of the 2012 laptop market, IHS iSuppli just downgraded its Ultrabook sales estimates by over 50 percent.

"Global ultrabook shipments are falling short of expectations in 2012," the research firm said in a press release that adjusted its Ultrabook shipment estimate from 22 million units all the way down to 10.3 million units. The firm also lopped nearly 20 million units off of next year's anticipated shipments, bringing the 2013 forecast from 61 million Ultrabooks down to 44 million.

Why the hard times? “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," says Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS. "This is especially a problem amid all the hype surrounding media tablets and smartphones."

'The PC industry has failed to create buzz and excitement among consumers.'

- Research firm IHS iSuppli

The sky-high price point for most Ultrabooks is another major issue. While low-cost Ultrabooks from Sony and Lenovo (amongst others) are starting to appear, the vast majority still hover at or above the $1,000 price point. That's just not competitive in today's tough economy, Stice claims -- especially when attractive mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire HD and (likely) Microsoft Surface can be had for hundreds of dollars less.

Finally, Intel's tightening standards -- designed to showcase the increasingly powerful, energy efficient capabilities in the company's Core processors -- could lead to several manufacturers ditching the official Ultrabook tag in favor of the unregulated "ultrathin" designation. HP is also muddying the waters with its AMD-powered "Sleekbooks" like the HP Envy Sleekbook 6z.

It's not all doom-and-gloom, however. The arrival of Windows 8 and new features like touchscreens, improved Intel technologies and hybrid-style computers should jump-start sales, IHS iSuppli claims; the company expects half of all 2012 Ultrabooks to be sold in the next three months, while the continuing trend continues to point upwards, culminating in an expected 95 million Ultrabook sales by 2016.

In June, the NPD Group released sales figures that showed that only 11 percent of all $700-plus laptops were Ultrabooks… and all $700-plus laptops only accounted for 14 percent of the total laptop market. According to those numbers, the premium segment commanded better year-over-year growth than traditional notebooks, but Ultrabooks have still yet to quite catch the world on fire in terms of sheer sales volume.