October 31, 2012---According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, as the cost decline of ultrabook components like SSDs, displays, and cases becomes more apparent next year and Intel places more focus on developing processors for ultrabook use, ultrabook market size may exceed 30 million units in 2013, growing by more than 30% compared to this year and accounting for 17% of the notebook market.
2012 has been the most challenging year PC vendors have seen in a while; with weak macroeconomic conditions and smartphones and tablets cannibalizing notebook demand, in addition to changing consumer attitudes regarding mobile device use, notebooks are no longer relied on as heavily as in the past. As Intel and other major manufacturers have lowered their shipment targets for 2012, TrendForce believes notebooks (including netbooks) will see negative growth for the first time in years, with total shipments forecast at 186 million units, a 4.6% YoY decrease. Ultrabooks also fell far short of expectation this year; TrendForce has adjusted the yearly ultrabook shipment forecast from 15 million down to 11 million, a mere 6.2% of the notebook market. From a product perspective, the MacBook Air, with exceptional design and backed by Apple’s unique brand image and component purchasing advantage, encompasses more than 40% of the market. Limited by high component cost (metal case, thin display, SSD, etc.), other ultrabook manufacturers have been unable to bring cost and subsequently, retail price, down to the market sweet spot. Even if vendors change their strategy for the second half of the year and adopt hybrid storage solutions (24GB or 32GB SSD paired with at least 500GB HDD) or use casing made of other materials to lower cost, the effect would be limited; ultrabooks still would not meet expectation this year.
Looking at the ultrabook market forecast for 2013, TrendForce believes the effect of declining component cost will be more noticeable next year. Taking SSD, for example, after three quarters of yield rate improvement, volume production of 20nm process SSD products will begin at the end of the first quarter of 2013. As yield rate continues to increase, SSD unit cost may see a 25-30% reduction next year, which would contribute significantly to lowering high-end ultrabook cost (most use 128GB or 256GB pure SSD). Additionally, the majority of PC makers have set ultrabook price around 699 USD; at this price, over 80% of ultrabooks will use a hybrid storage solution. The 15-20% cost savings would enable makers to set prices at 699 USD or lower, possibly to 599 USD. Furthermore, at the latest Intel Developer Forum, Intel introduced NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor), its new SSD standard. Currently, mSATA SSD comes in varying specifications and sizes; standardizing SSD modules would lower developing costs for manufacturers, and TrendForce expects this move will significantly benefit NAND flash demand. Furthermore, Intel’s Haswell microarchitecture and Shark Bay platform will launch in the second quarter of 2013; with more products being developed that are suited to ultrabooks’ efficiency needs, manufacturers will be able to produce even better ultrabooks.
Thus, although TrendForce forecasts the notebook market will only see 1.3% growth next year, as netbooks will more or less be eliminated completely from the market and cannibalization from smartphones and tablets will continue, the majority of notebook market growth will come from ultrabooks. As key component cost and overall cost structure improves and new processors arrive next year, ultrabooks may see a rebound after the second quarter of 2013. Therefore, TrendForce expects the ultrabook market to break 30 million units in 2013, taking 17% of the notebook market.
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Ultrabooks to Grow Over 30% in 2013, Becoming Key PC Market Indicator
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