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By 24 January 2012 | Categories: news

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While tablets may be the current darlings of the mobile world, the latest report from analyst company Juniper Research forecasts that ultrabooks will grow at three times the rate of tablets over the next five years.
 
However, the report, entitled Ultrabooks and Mobile Computing: Strategies and forecasts 2012 – 2016, concedes that tablet volumes will remain higher, with 253 million units expected to ship in 2016, as compared with 178 million ultrabooks in the same year.
 
According to the report, despite the fact that the industry responded quickly to the release of the much acclaimed iPad tablet, it was far slower to respond to the release of Apple’s MacBook Air in 2008.
 
The gold standard
 
Instead it took until late last year for the first ultrabooks, which are considered a new category in mobile computing that is being championed by Intel, to begin making their appearance.
 
According to Juniper Research, while the market is bursting with new products in the aftermath of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a number of challenges remain for the industry. Chief amongst these is that competing products need to be significantly differentiated from the MacBook Air, with regards to pricing and features, in order for competitors to gain traction.
 
Indeed, we have already noticed that ultrabooks and thin and light notebooks are almost automatically compared to the MacBook Air, in terms of size, thickness, weight and features. This means that ultrabook manufacturers can expect the MacBook Air to continue being a hard act to follow, and an even more difficult one to beat.
 
Challenges ahead
 
According to report author Daniel Ashdown, while Intel's control of the brand ensures that ultrabooks stand out from traditional notebooks, vendors were facing a balancing act in terms of product strategy.
 
“Meeting Intel's specification secures brand status and funding, but the step-change from notebooks means many of today's ultrabooks are too expensive for many consumers," he noted. The report further asserted that while flash-based storage offered superior performance, vendors would need to augment solid state drives with hard disk drives or cloud storage in the long term.
 
One ray of light for the nascent computing category comes from Windows 8, which Juniper Research expects to play a “pivotal role” in driving ultrabook adoption, due to extended battery life, and always-on-always-connected functionality coming with Microsoft's next OS.
 
The biggest loser
 
The real victim of ultrabooks’ expected success would not be notebooks or tablet, but rather netbooks.
 
The company expects that netbooks shipments will comprise just a third of today's volumes by 2016, continuing that “tablets and low-cost, but superior performance notebooks will continue to cannibalise this short-lived segment.”
 
To the point
 
We’re inclined to agree with Juniper’s findings on at least the price front. While already the two ultrabooks we have reviewed, Asus’ Zenbook and Acer’s Aspire S3 impressed, the segment does need to be priced more competitively if it wants to avoid being automatically compared to Apple’s MacBook Air.
 
As became so evident last year with tablets, there is a magic price range that ultrabooks need to find to move them from being also ran’s to ‘must haves.’
 
In recent news, research firm IHS iSupply echoed Juniper Research’s findings, similarly predicting that ultrabooks would enjoy ultrafast growth. 

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