updated 01:00 pm EST, Tue January 24, 2012
Juniper says ultrabooks to grow fast but trail
A new Juniper Research prediction made the claim that ultrabooks would rapidly close in on, but not overtake, the lead established by tablets. The long-term guess has the MacBook Air-inspired notebook category growing three times faster than tablets between now and 2016. Its small start, however, would see shipments of 178 million where tablets' early lead would put them at 253 million.
The challenge, already seen in action today, would be getting the cost low enough to spur mainstream adoption. Windows PC builders, not used to having to compete at Apple's price levels, are trying strategies such as using hybrid hard drives to get some of the benefits of flash memory while still having access to cheaper, rotating hard drives. Although not mentioned in the study, some of them are also using cheaper materials for some of the case design, such as plastic or fiberglass rather than aluminum.
Rather than draw from each other, ultrabooks and tablets would primarily make netbooks their victim, Juniper said. Just a third as many netbooks would be shipping as are expected this year. The prediction was partly supported by Microsoft's latest results, which saw it lose six percent of Windows revenue owed not just to hard drive shortages but to netbook sales being lost to the iPad and other tablets.
Far-reaching estimates such as Juniper's can frequently get some details wrong and don't account for surprise introductions or outside factors. Intel may help make this come to pass, though, through its $300 million ultrabook fund for marketing. The chip designer is hoping that 40 percent of notebooks will be ultrabooks sometime in 2013.