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DRAMeXchange: All Bets on Ultrabook in 2012, Thin-and-Light Battle Imminent, Pushing 10% Notebook Shipment Increase

29 March 2012 Consumer Electronics

According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, the year 2012 will mark the beginning of the ultrabook era. PC OEMs are eagerly working on ultrabook development, and the thin-and-light trend will spur overall PC growth in 2H12. TrendForce indicates that the additional support from ultrabooks will help total notebook shipment volume increase by 9% to a forecasted 213 million for 2012. Nearly 10%, or 20 million units, of which will be ultrabook shipments.

Furthermore, the focus of the notebook market this year will not only be on 18-21mm ultrabooks, but 22-25mm thin-and-light notebooks well. TrendForce forecasts thin-and-light notebooks, including both 18-21mm and 22-25mm models, will account for 15-20% of total notebook shipments in 2012.

Acer Makes First Move, ASUS Focuses on Design
Major PC makers are jumping on the ultrabook bandwagon, hoping to shake the impact from mobile devices and return to the days of double-digit growth. Acer, who introduced the world’s first ultrabook in 2011, is expected to unveil four new ultrabook models in Q2 as well as a US$699-799 product in Q3, and 25-30% of Acer’s notebook products will be comprised of ultrabooks in Q4.

ASUS, on the other hand, is focusing on ultrabook design. At Computex 2011, ASUS introduced ultrabook products UX21 and UX31, whose striking appearance garnered plenty of attention. In 2012, ASUS will continue offering the high-end UX21 and UX31 series, but will add a new product to their lineup in Q2, with a price that may reach a low of US$799. If ASUS is able to stick to their production schedule and provide high, mid, and entry-level products, the maker’s ultrabook shipment momentum will be strong this year.

HP Aggressive, Dell Conservative
After HP’s 2011 release of its 13-inch ultrabook, Folio, the maker became more aggressive in terms of its ultrabook strategy. Not only did the company introduce the 14-inch, high-end product Spectre at the 2012 CES tradeshow, but several new ultrabook models are expected to hit the market in Q2 this year. TrendForce forecasts ultrabooks will account for nearly 10% of HP’s notebooks.

Dell’s ultrabook strategy is comparatively conservative. The maker’s first ultrabook product, the XPS 13, is scheduled to hit the market this month at a price range of US$99-1499. According to TrendForce’s supply chain research, Dell’s ultrabook will remain at this fairly high range for 2012. In addition to the fact that the maker’s new ultrabook models will not be unveiled until 2H12, penetration rate is not likely to increase much this year.

Samsung Catching Up, Lenovo Laying the Foundation
Samsung joined the ultrabook game relatively early on. In February 2011, before the ultrabook concept was presented to the world, Samsung unveiled its thin-and-light Series 9 – but with a high, US$1650 price tag. Furthermore, with a non-ULV processor, the Series 9 cannot be categorized an ultrabook, strictly speaking. At the 2012 CES tradeshow, Samsung introduced an updated Series 9 model with a slight external change, as well as the new, more affordable Series 5 line that offers models starting at US$899. The switch in Samsung’s focus from high-end products, targeted to go up against Apple’s MacBook Air, to less expensive models indicates the maker is set to play the ultrabook game – if even lower-priced models are introduced in the future, Samsung’s ultrabook market penetration rate will likely increase.

In 2011 Lenovo introduced consumer ultrabooks U300 and U300s, and plans to release a business ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u, as well as two new consumer models, U310 and U410, in the Q3 and Q4 this year. The consumer models will start at US$699, while the business model will cost US$849 and up.

Toshiba Making Slow Progress, Vizio Joins the Game
In 2011 Toshiba introduced the thin-and-light Portege Z830 series – with a weight of merely 1.1 kg and a promotional sale price of US$799, the product was well received by consumers. However, according to TrendForce market research, Toshiba’s ultrabook plans for 2012 are conservative, currently consisting of only a new Satellite 14-inch model. Any other new ultrabook products will likely not come out until the end of this year or early 2013 – thus, TrendForce forecasts Toshiba’s ultrabook penetration rate at only 5%.

The remaining brand manufacturers are also sparing no efforts when it comes to development of ultrabook products. Even television manufacturer Vizio unveiled its own ultrabook product at the CES tradeshow, ready to make a move on the notebook market. Major manufacturers will all have ultrabook products of some sort, and as the ultrabook concept gradually matures this year, TrendForce expects the market will see several new models pop up in Q2 and 2H12.


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