IDF Preview: Can UltraBooks Save the PC Industry?

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Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.

This week, I will join around 5,000 others who will head to San Francisco to attend Intel’s Developer Forum. For Intel and much of the PC industry this is a critical event. As of now, the PC industry has slowed to about a 5% per anum growth and it is desperately looking for something new to rejuvenate the market’s interest in PCs.

And the product that Intel hopes PC vendors and buyers will get excited about is something they call the UltraBook.

UltraBooks, if you’re not familiar with the term, are simply a name that’s been created to describe a super thin and super light computer. Intel’s hope with this category is that it will inject some new life and consumer interest into the non-Apple side of the PC industry. Several UltraBooks have already been announced. The most noteable ones are from Acer, Samsung and Toshiba.

(LIST: Eight New Tablets and Ultrabooks You Should Know About)

What I find extremely interesting is that Intel and partners feel that we need a new term to revitalize the PC category. This year alone we will ship somewhere between 380 and 400 million PCs. That’s no trivial number. The problem is that annual PC shipments are not growing at the rate they once were.

Other devices like smart phones and tablets are the areas of interest where rapid growth is taking place. Companies like Intel, AMD, Microsoft, Acer, Dell, HP / HP spinoff, etc. do not have strong product portfolios in these growth categories so if PC growth has stalled, it affects them greatly.

Tablets aren’t cannablizing PC sales yet. However, our research suggests that a growing group of consumers are starting to at least explore the question of whether they need to buy a new PC or just buy a tablet to use with their existing PC.

Apple on the other hand is outpacing the industry’s growth with Mac sales on a quarter by quarter basis. I anticipate their next quarter’s earning report to highlight massive sales of their newest MacBook Airs. In fact, in one or both of the next two quarters, I expect Apple to sell over 5 million Macs in just one quarter for the first time. The rest of the industry has caught on that Apple is on to something with the design of the MacBook Air and UltraBooks are what they plan to answer with.

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(MORE: Windows-Based MacBook Air Competitors May Be Pricier than Anticipated)

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