One of the more interesting trends highlighted in IHS iSuppli's Ultrabook sales forecast cut this week is this: OEMs are re-casting at least some notebooks formerly called Ultrabooks as "ultrathins" instead.
Why? Intel has some pretty stringent specifications for thickness, weight, performance and battery life for anything given the Ultrabook label (which Intel had trademarked). Hitting those specs while at the same time trying to bring down the cost of the systems is the entire crux of the issue.
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According to IHS analyst Craig Stice, as OEMs find that they can't hit all of Intel's specs while also bringing down the price, they are choosing to reclassify some systems as ultrathins. The concept of the systems is the sameóthin form factor, light, fast and efficient.
Despite cutting his forecast for Ultrabook sales for this year and next year, Stice believes Ultrabook shipments will grow nicely over the next few years, increasing from about 10 million this year to more than 95 million in 2016. But Stice acknowledges that the entire Ultrabook label might fall by the wayside if OEMs decide that the only way to get these ultra-thin, ultra-light systems down to price points that consumers find palatable is to come up short of the Ultrabook specifications.
"In the near term, there is the Ultrabook push because that's the buzz word," Stice said. "But at some point, does the Ultrabook name fade away?"
Dell Inc.'s XPS 14 Ultrabook.
In fact, Stice said his latest forecast predicts this trend to some degree. He projects that growth in Ultrabook shipments will level off at about 95 million units, partly because of an expected rise in shipments of systems classified as ultrathins. At a certain point, you have to assume that even if this concept catches on as Intel hopes it will, consumers will be less concerned about whether the thin, light-weight notebook they want to buy is considered an Ultrabook or something else.
But such a development would not be a loss for Intel. On the contrary, even if the company's Ultrabook push results in the rise of something else called an ultrathin, it's still a win for Intel.
"They are still selling chips," Stice said.