Ultrabook shipments could hit 178 million by 2016

Ultrabooks will grow at three times the rate of tablets over the next five years, according to Juniper Research, with shipments expected to reach 178 million by 2016.

While overall notebook shipment volumes will be largest in the AsiaPacific region by 2016, Juniper expects the largest markets forUltrabooks to be North America andWestern Europe, where consumers arein general more affluent.

Ultrabooks are a new class of thin and light laptops, powered byIntel’s second generation core processors, and promoted as analternative to tablet PCs. The name Ultrabook is a trademark of Intel,which means the company can control which devices carry its brand.

Intel states that Ultrabooks mustbe less than 21mm thick and offerbetween five and eight hours of battery life. They should also be ableto start up almost instantly and be enabled with features that helpprotect themselves and their users.

Response to Macbook Air
According to the report’s author Daniel Ashdown, Ultrabooks are finallyenabling the industry to respond to Apple’s Macbook Air, which retainsa niche segment of the market due to its consistently high price.However, Ashdown warns that Ultrabooks will not achieve mass marketsuccess until Intel works out how to bring down costs.

“While Intel’s control of the brand ensures that Ultrabooks stand outfrom traditional notebooks, vendors face a balancing act in terms ofproduct strategy,” said Ashdown. “Meeting Intel’s specification securesbrand status and funding, but the step-change from notebooks means manyof today’s Ultrabooks are too expensive for many consumers.”

The current generation of Intel Ultrabooks cost upward of $1,100, withsome models, such as the HP Envy 14, retailing at around$1,500. Intelexpects some 70 new Ultrabooks models this year and is hoping that itsnext-generation Ivy Bridge platform, arriving in April, will drive downthe cost of Ultrabooks to bring the thin and light laptops into themainstream.

$300 million Ultrabook fund
Intel Capital has also created a $300 million fund in August 2011,aimed at funding technologies that will help deliver new and enhanceduser experiences, longer battery life and slim component and platformtechnologies.

The report also found that Windows 8 will play a pivotal roleindriving Ultrabook adoption, with extended battery life,always-on-always-connected capability and other functionalities comingwith Microsoft’s next OS. However, tablet PCs will continue tocannibalise the segment, with 253 million expected to be shipped in2016.

Intel is not the only company hoping to challenge the Macbook’sdominance. Last week it was reported that AMD is preparing chipsets forthin laptops that would cost up to $200 less than anIntel-powered Ultrabook. AMD’s ultrathin laptops will use the company’sTrinity chips, and will start from around $550.

AMD is set to launch its platform, codenamed Ultrathin, in June.

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