Ultrabooks are supposed to help breathe new life into the PC market, but they may be falling short, judging by the latest figures from IHS. The market research firm has cut its forecast for 2012 ultrabook shipments from 22 million units down to just 10.3 million. IHS also expects fewer ultrabooks to ship next year—only 44 million, down from the previously anticipated 61 million.
IHS analyst Craig Stice sums up the problem as follows:
There once was a time when everyone knew the 'Dude you’re getting a Dell' slogan. Nowadays no one can remember a tag line for a new PC product, including for any single ultrabook. . . . So far, the PC industry has failed to create the kind of buzz and excitement among consumers that is required to propel ultrabooks into the mainstream. This is especially a problem amid all the hype surrounding media tablets and smartphones. When combined with other factors, including prohibitively high pricing, this means that ultrabook sales will not meet expectations in 2012.
Now, high prices and low enthusiasm aren't the only reasons IHS has revised its forecast. The research firm points out that, because of Intel's "increasingly stringent" definition of what constitues an ultrabook, vendors have reclassified some of their ultrabooks as "ultrathins." The firm doesn't say how big an impact that little semantics play has had.
Still, ultrabooks are reportedly failing to woo consumers. For more folks to be drawn to ultrabooks instead of the latest gizmos from Apple and its copycats, IHS reckons prices need to slip from their current level—roughly $1000—down into the $600-700 range. The research firm believes adding new features like touch screens and motion sensors could also boost demand.
I think offering high-quality systems at lower prices will probably help more than piling on features. The idea of a notebook with a touch screen doesn't particularly appeal to me, but I'd love to be able to get an ersatz MacBook Air for $600 or so. Perhaps Windows 8 will change my mind, though. The Metro interface has clearly been designed with touch in mind, and I might find myself swayed by some slick convertible ultrabooks like the Asus Taichi.