Intel continues to flog the ultrabook
concept for all its worth, but DigiTimes reports that thus far, sales aren't in line with what OEMs expected. Shipments from Acer and Asus are currently expected to reach 100,000 units each by the end of the year, far short of the initial target of 200-300K units apiece. Part of the problem is reputed to be price—the Taiwanese models currently open at ~$1200, and the cheaper US $1000 option isn't available The report claims that lackluster specs and economic uncertainty have further dampened customer interest, while OEMs are leery of ramping production
while demand remains uncertain.
None of that is stopping Intel, which currently predicts ultrabooks will account for up to 40 percent of the consumer PC business by this time next year. That's an astonishingly optimistic prediction considering that desktop PCs accounted for an estimated 32 percent of all sales in 2010. The only way for Intel to hit a figure that high is if two out of every three laptops shipping by the end of 2012 are ultrabooks. Given the materiel constraints currently hampering production and the specialized requirements of the ultrabook form factor, it's not even clear if factories are capable of ramping production of the new form factor that fast.
"That's a challenging target ... in order for that to happen the price has to come down," Navin Shenoy, Intel's vice president of sales and marketing and general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "More work needs to happen in the ecosystem. Even if we're giving the chips away for free, we couldn't hit the price point we want to hit if we don't work with the rest of the industry."
The brand message is clear—Intel really, really, really wants you to want an ultrabook. Early reviews on both the Asus X21/X31 and the Acer S3 paint the former as generally superior to the latter, with both qualifying as decent efforts on delivering MacBook Air design at a lower price point. So far, so good. The bigger problem for Intel is that the company has bet its mobile strategy on the idea that ultrabooks, properly designed, will remind consumers that Intel builds these incredibly svelte, tablet-like systems until actual tablets are available.
This isn't about market share—tablets aren't biting into notebook sales—it's about keeping Intel's brand presence visible on the cutting edge of mobile products until Windows 8 and 22nm Atom are ready for showtime.
Whether ultrabooks will really catch fire with consumers or not remains to be seen. Intel's decision to focus around a 15W mainstream TDP target for Ivy Bridge is definitely predicated on the idea that consumers are looking for ultra-thin-and-light systems, but the $699 price point analysts think ultrabooks need to aim for may take years to reach.