PC makers such as Acer and Lenovo reportedly will roll out a limited number of ultrabooks-about 50,000-this fall amid concerns about the sluggish PC market.
System makers such as Asus, Acer and
Lenovo reportedly are limiting the number of ultrabooks they ship this fall,
due to a lack in confidence that laptop sales will rebound in the fourth
quarter and the belief that Apple's MacBook Air notebook will continue to
dominate the market.
According to Taiwanese news site DigiTimes-citing
"sources from notebook makers"-Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba will essentially
spend the fall gauging interest in the ultrabook market segment by shipping
fewer than 50,000 units.
The first ultrabooks-most likely Asus'
UX21-will start shipping this month, with more systems rolling out between now
The news about the limited number of
units is the latest example of OEMs' relatively slow embrace of the form factor
that was first introduced by giant chip maker Intel in May. It also comes at a
time when Intel officials are making moves to encourage system makers to adopt
and build ultrabooks.
System makers are taking a conservative
approach to ultrabooks for several reasons, including their experience several
years ago with Intel's Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) thin notebooks, which
never took hold in the market, and continued difficulties bringing the price of
ultrabooks under $1,000, a key point noted by Intel executives when they
introduced the idea. In addition, some OEMs may be waiting until the 2012
release of Intel's "Ivy Bridge" chips-which essentially will be smaller
versions of the current "Sandy Bridge" processors-to really embrace the form factor.
Intel executives envision ultrabooks as
combining the performance and reliability of traditional notebooks with
features found in tablets, including instant-on and, eventually, touch
capabilities. They said the ultra-thin, ultra-light laptops should be no more
than 0.8 inches thick, run on x86-based chips and cost less than $1,000.
They see the systems competing with Apple's
MacBook Air, which was refreshed this summer and, at its lowest point, costs
Intel officials said they expect
ultrabooks to account for 40 percent of all notebooks sold by the end of 2012,
but DigiTimes' sources said that goal may be difficult to meet.
The chip maker has made several moves
incentives to OEMs, including establishing a $300
million fund via its Intel Capital investment arm for companies that build
hardware and software technologies for ultrabooks. In addition, Intel has
unveiled new chips aimed at the ultrabook market, said it will increase
investments in the initiative and in August unveiled
reference designs that vendors can use to create ultrabooks that cost less
Analysts have said that ultrabooks are
a way for Intel
to push its way further into the mobility space currently dominated by
chips designed by ARM Holdings and made by the likes of Nvidia, Samsung, Texas
Instruments and Qualcomm.
"There is an enormous amount at stake
in winning an important piece of mindshare for x86 architecture in the
high-mobility space," Roger Kay, principal analyst for Endpoint Technologies
Associates, wrote in an Aug. 12 blog
in Forbes. "So far, smartphones and tablets are virtually all based on ARM
architecture. Intel has said it expects design wins this year for
Atom-based high-mobility devices that will come to market in 2012, but for the
moment, none are in market. Apple, which has already effectively colonized the
very thin notebook space with the [MacBook] Air, bases most of its
high-mobility products on ARM, has an in-house processor design team working on
ARM development, and could easily cut more of its lineup over to ARM at any
Intel is looking at a multistep
strategy around ultrabooks, with the second step being systems running on Ivy
Bridge in 2012. That will be followed by the release of systems powered by
"Haswell" processors in 2013.
In this first wave, Acer, Asus, LG
Electronics, Lenovo and Toshiba have all said they will roll out ultrabooks
based on Intel technology.
Market research firms IDC and Gartner
say they expect traditional PC
sales to continue to slow through the rest of 2011, with consumer purchases
being the key culprit. The commercial PC market continues to be strong,
according to analysts.