updated 12:00 am EDT, Fri September 30, 2011
Ultrabooks may be limited by metal capacity
Any low ultrabook shipments may be a virtue of chronic aluminum shortages running through to 2012. An industry news tip stemming from Digitimes has some of the key companies making aluminum panels for ultraportable notebooks, including Foxconn and Catcher, fully occupied until at least the end of 2011. MacBook Air competitors that use aluminum, such as the Acer Aspire S3, Lenovo IdeaPad U300s, and Toshiba Portege Z830 might all be constrained as a result.
At least Acer is known to be affected. ASUS, which is showing the UX21 and UX31 in the US next month, is using BYD for its aluminum and might not be as limited as the others. With Dell and HP said to be getting into the category, however, the capacity heading into 2012 might be pushed to the breaking point.
The firms making the aluminum have improved their capacity in recent months, such as Catcher adding a third more of the milling machines in the past year to hit 12,000. Whether or not they can keep up is still a lingering concern.
Apple is suspected of being the only company relatively immune to the aluminum issues. Its longstanding use of aluminum, most of all for the current MacBook Air that serves as the blueprint for Intel's ultrabook concept, may have given it a steady supply where others just now getting into the category have to fight over the remaining production.