"People are starting to understand the benefits of mobility," Diehl said. "When I say mobility, I mean form factorthin and light [weight]wirelesswith Bluetooth, wireless LAN and wireless WANand, lastly, battery life. Wireless is useless if the battery doesnt work." IDCs latest forecast projects that ultraportables, which saw worldwide unit shipments of about 5 million in 2005, will more than double by 2010, increasing to about 12 million units.Thus, percentage-wise, even with the increase in shipments, ultraportables will still represent less than 10 percent of total notebook shipments by 2010, according to the firms numbers. Ultraportables are not currently expected to upend the grip that "thin-and-light" machines, which weigh over 4 pounds and come with larger screens, enjoy on the market. Thin-and-lights made up greater than 80 percent of shipments in 2005, according to IDC numbers. But that doesnt mean ultraportables wont evolve, said Richard Shim, analyst with IDC in San Mateo, Calif. "As the market continues to move toward mobile, manufacturers are starting to look at it a lot like the desktop market," Shim said. They believe "you have to develop more differentiated products. Were seeing that in thin-and-light [notebooks that weigh around 5 pounds] and in ultraportables." Click here to read more about Gateways lightweight laptops. The ultraportable category is now breaking down into two class of notebooks, Shim said. It includes "one thats the more traditional, slim and sexy type of device and the other is the device that includes the optical drive," Shim said. "I think, over time, optical [equipped models] will become the dominant form factor in the category." The lack of built-in optical has always been seen as one of the drawbacks of ultraportables, Shim said. Thus notebook makers have begun developing lightweight models with optical drives built in. Several companies, such as Lenovo Group, have begun to offer both types of ultraportables. Lenovo sells its Lenovo 3000 V100, which weighs about 4 pounds and offers a 12.1-inch wide screen display for about $1,100, alongside the smaller ThinkPad X Series, which offers a standard aspect ratio 12.1-inch display and weighs between about 2.7 pounds and 3.5 pounds, sans an external optical drive. Others, such as Dell, have made their more mainstream thin-and-light models smaller, closing the gap between those machines and their ultraportables. Dells latest line of Latitudes includes a model D620, which comes with a 14.1-inch widescreen display, but weighs just over 4 pounds, sans optical drive. Its about 5 pounds with a drive and a six-cell battery installed, the company says. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
Worldwide notebook PC shipments in the same period are expected by the firm to rise from about 65 million in 2005 to about 148 million in 2010.