The future of personal computing is starting to look a lot slimmer, according to the NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report, which projected ultra-slim PC shipments would grow from 3.4 million in 2011 to 65 million by 2015 to represent a quarter of the mobile PC market. The company also released a report, “Ultra-Slim PCs: The Notebook Market’s Response to Tablets,” which details how the notebook market is realigning and examines the evolution of ultra-slim PCs, including falling component costs.
While demand for notebooks is slowing, tablet computers, led by the Apple iPad and a slew of Google Android-based competitors, are picking up the slack as consumers turn to devices that allow them to easily access content on the go. A recent IDC report found Apple shipped 17 million iPads during the second quarter of 2012, up from 11.8 million units in the prior quarter. The iPad currently represents 68 percent of the worldwide tablet market.
The NPD report noted the growth of mobile PCs is pushing consumers toward a more convenience-based model, where access to Web content and social networking is replacing more performance-driven applications. Touch-screen tablets are leading this revolution and are expected to surpass sales of notebook shipments by 2016.
“Tablet PCs have offered consumers what they have been requesting from the notebook market for years, instant-on activation, long battery life and sleeker designs,” Richard Shim, senior analyst with NPD DisplaySearch, said in a statement. “These attributes are the basis for enabling greater and easier accessibility to content and services. Ultra-slim PCs are the notebook market’s response to tablets and aim to balance performance and convenience.”
NPD defines an ultra-slim PC as notebooks with screen sizes greater than 14 inches having a thickness of less than 21mm, while notebooks with screen sizes less than 14 inches must have a thickness of less than 18mm. Among the notebooks currently on the market, NPD said it considers Apple’s Macbook Air, Macbook Pro with Retina display, and the notebooks launched carrying Intel’s trademarked Ultrabook label.
As more tablets enter the market, the cost of critical components, such as NAND flash storage and high-definition touch-enabled displays is falling, thereby lowering material costs and premium prices. “A combination of improvements in thinner glass manufacturing and handling, as well as assembly of panels, will improve yields and lower the cost of panels, one of the most expensive components in an ultra-slim PC,” the NPD report stated.
Meanwhile, low-cost alternatives to the iPad, which starts at $499, have started to bite into Apple’s market share. Online retailer Amazon recently took the wraps off its Kindle Fire tablet, which starts at $159, while Google’s 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet retails for $199. The market may get a further boost if rumors regarding a smaller iPad, which would likely carry a price much closer to the Nexus 7, turn out to be true.