Ultrabooks expected to roil chip markets
11/18/2011 5:22 PM EST
SAN FRANCISCO—The projected growth of ultrabooks—a low power type of notebook being pushed by Intel Corp.—will shake up several semiconductor markets, boosting the prospects of sensors and power and analog chips but decreasing the market opportunity for upgrade memory modules, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.
IHS (El Segundo, Calif.) predicts that shipments of ultrabooks will rise to 136.5 million in 2015 from less than 1 million in 2011. By 2015, ultrabooks will account for 42 percent of notebook shipments, according to IHS.
The ultrabook's thin and light form factor requires changes in design and component selection compared to conventional mobile PCs, according to IHS. Though ultrabooks on the whole represent a huge new growth opportunity for chip suppliers, their rapid growth will cause major realignments among semiconductor frims serving the notebook markets, IHS predicted.
"In terms of usage of sensors, ultrabooks much more closely resemble media tablets than conventional notebooks," said Jérémie Bouchaud, principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS.
While media tablets make extensive use of sensors, including MEMS devices like accelerometers and non-MEMS devices like compasses, conventional notebook PCs use very few sensors, Bouchaud said.
"With ultrabook shipments expected to rise to account for 42 percent of the notebook market by 2015, this represents a major growth opportunity for MEMS."
Another beneficiary of the ultrabooks’ increasing share of notebook shipments will be analog semiconductors, particularly power-management devices, according to IHS. The tiny size of ultrabooks will require more highly integrated power and analog components compared to conventional notebooks, the firm said.
"This will increase the value of power management electronics in each unit sold, boosting the opportunity for analog suppliers," said Marijana Vukicevic, senior principal analyst for power management at IHS.
The thin, media-tablet style of ultrabooks will be a detriment to the DRAM module market, particularly those used for memory upgrades, IHS said.
According to Clifford Leimbach, memory demand forecasting analyst at IHS, most ultrabooks now shipping have DRAM chips soldered directly onto the motherboard. This streamlines the design, but also eliminates the need for a traditional small outline dual in-line memory module DRAM module, Leimbach said.
Notebooks represent a key market for DRAM modules, both those built into the PCs and those purchased to upgrade memory capacity, IHS said. As ultrabooks account for a greater percentage of notebooks shipped, the upgrade DRAM module market will be negatively impacted, IHS said. While the reduction initially will be limited, the ultrabook in 2015 will reduce the number of upgrade notebook PC modules shipped by 13.5 percent, amounting to some 10.8 million units, according to IHS.
Ultrabooks are light, thin (less on 0.8 inches in thickness) notebooks with a full PC operating system like Microsoft Windows as well as features now commonly found in media tablets, such as instant-on activation, always-connected wireless links, solid state drives and battery lives longer than eight hours on a single charge. The machines are targeted to cost less than $1,000, but early models from Asus, Acer and others are more expensive, according to IHS.