Key Word in Mobile PCs: Convenience


The market for notebook PCs will continue to grow for the next few years, but not fast enough to hold its current market share lead against Ultra-slim PCs, according to tech research firm NPD DisplaySearch. The Ultra-slim category is defined by models such as the MacBook Air from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Ultrabooks based on a design championed by Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC).

NPD DisplaySearch notes that shipments of tablets like Apple's iPad, the Nexus 7 from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), the Galaxy Tab series from Samsung Electronics, and the Kindle Fire family from Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) will exceed notebook PC shipments by 2016. The most desirable features of tablets are instant-on, long battery life, and sleek design. Ultra-slim PCs are the notebook makers answer to tablets according to NPD. Add those all up, toss in portability, and they spell "convenience."

Higher prices for the Ultra-slim models and the inability of the makers to grab some attention from tablet makers has weighed on sales. According to a recent report from IHS iSuppli only 10.3 million Ultrabooks will ship worldwide in 2012, less than half the firm's original forecast for the year. iSuppli estimates 2006 shipments of Ultrabooks will reach 95 million units.

In an NPD report from July, the company projects mobile PC shipments of 347 million units in 2012, rising to 809 million units by 2017. Tablet shipments will account for more than half of that total, some 416 million units.

Ultrabooks will poach market share from Apple, which now claims about 39% of the Ultra-slim market, according to DigiTimes. Next year Apple's share is expected to drop to 28% as the Intel-based machines drop in price and rise in features.

On the tablet front, Apple's iPad dominates according to IDC, with an expected 60% share in 2012, and virtually all the rest going to Android-based tablets, including the Kindle Fire. By 2016, IDC expects Android to lose share to Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and its Windows 8 and Windows RT platforms, with Microsoft nabbing 11% share by 2016 and Android falling to around 30%.

The good news is that all this competition will lead to lower prices for consumers, both for tablets and Ultra-slim PCs. Well, maybe good news for consumers and not-so-good news for suppliers.

Paul Ausick

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