The super-thin and light laptops promoted by Intel Corp, known as “Ultrabooks,” will remain a niche product in the near term but should gain more mainstream popularity next year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said recently.
In a report on the Ultrabook market, Merrill Lynch forecast that global sales of Ultrabooks would total 15 million units this year and 50 million next year, accounting for 7 percent and 20 percent of total notebook sales in those years.
Asian PC brands such as Acer Inc (宏碁), Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), Samsung Electronics Co, Lenovo Group Ltd (聯想), Toshiba Corp and LG Electronics Co launched their first Ultrabooks in the fourth quarter of 2011, while Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc introduced their first Ultrabook models last month.
“In the near term, price premium and lack of differentiation will halt the end-demand, but we expect more innovative Ultrabook form factors in the second half of this year, like touch screens, gesture control, voice recognition and NFC [near field communication],” Merrill Lynch wrote.
Ultrabook's pricing will need to be lowered to about US$750 to gain broader acceptance, and vendors may be able to move closer to the target this year by finding cost savings in the unit’s CPU, storage and casing, the US bank said.
Merrill Lynch said that Taiwan’s Acer and Asustek have been much more aggressive than global peers in promoting Ultrabooks.
Acer introduced its second Ultrabook model, the S5, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month, and Asustek is targeting the launch of a model selling for around US$600 by the end of this year.
Merrill Lynch said some component makers may profit even more from Ultrabooks or slim form-factor notebooks than PC original design manufacturers.
“We expect subsectors like backlight, battery and hinge to be the biggest beneficiaries of the Ultrabook theme, while CPU socket, connectors, and thermal module makers might get hit on the back of the low-voltage requirement,” Merrill Lynch said.
Casing vendors may also face shrinking margins because PC vendors are still searching for lower-price solutions and materials to save costs, the US bank added.
In its report, Merrill Lynch maintained a positive outlook on LCD backlight module supplier Radiant Opto-Electronics Corp (瑞儀光電) and notebook battery pack maker Simplo Technology Co (新普科技), while remaining cautious on the prospects of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) and Foxconn Technology Co (鴻準).