Taipei, May 27 (CNA) Company representatives from around the world will be able to put their hands on ultra-thin laptops running on Microsoft Corp.’s highly anticipated operating system at Computex Taipei in June, according to one of the organizers.
This year at Computex, visitors will see a preview on Windows 8-based ultrabooks, said Enoch Du, secretary-general of the Taipei Computer Association, which co-organizes the world’s second largest tech trade fair.
“Although Microsoft is very cautious about the launch, vendors in fact are ready to offer the Windows 8 devices, including ultrabooks, tablet computers and smart handheld devices,” he told CNA in an interview recently.
“You can put your hands on the models and directly use them,” Du added. “With the release of the Windows 8, there will be a ‘big jump’ in ultrabook (sales) volumes.”
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the world’s top five PC vendors all introduced ultrabook products, but their price tags exceeded US$1,000, making the products less attractive to consumers, according to DRAMeXchange Technology Inc.
Looking at the price, the average notebook selling prices are about US$650 in 2012, so ultrabook prices need to dip below US$700 to be acceptable to consumers, the research firm said.
Given the expected price cut, ultrabook shipments are forecast at 20 million units in 2012, taking 10 percent of the overall notebook shipments compared with 2 percent last year, it predicted.
Meanwhile, the PC industry chain will see a big change in business models, such as the integration of mobile chipsets designed by ARM Holdings Plc, which are widely used in Android-based smartphones and tablet PCs to achieve lower power consumption, Du noted.
Intel Corp., which supplies processors for Ultrabooks, has forecast that the category may be priced as low as US$599 in the second half of this year when manufacturers use new and cheaper casing materials, such as a mixture of plastics and aluminum.
The U.S. chipmaker projected that the new models to be launched in the third and fourth quarter will support new functions, such as touch-enabled screens and gesture sensors, which will help drive the overall demand.
For 2012 as a whole, Intel expected ultrabooks to account for 30 to 40 percent of the global notebook shipments thanks to the introduction of lower priced models.
However, Du said that 20 percent will be a more reasonable penetration rate in 2012, as Intel’s forecast looks more like a long-term target.
“The pricing for ultrabooks is related to the total volume,” he explained. “When the volume increases, component costs will drop and then lower the retail prices, driving a virtuous cycle”
“I’m optimistic that ultrabooks will become cheaper and cheaper, but it will be quite difficult to see US$599 models this year,” Du said.
In April, Asustek Computer Inc. said ultrabooks will gain more momentum in the second half of this year thanks to the increase in supply of new chipsets and the expected launch of the new Windows system.
The Taiwanese PC brand plans to roll out a number of new ultrabooks priced from US$799 to US$1,999 starting in the April-June period, and the company expects the category to account for 10 to 20 percent of its total notebook shipments this year.
Separately, Taiwan’s Acer Inc. has reduced its ultrabook prices to as low as US$799 in selected regions, but the price remained too high for consumers, compared with a price tag of US$400 to US$500 for mainstream notebooks.
Acer projected that ultrabooks will account for 12 to 20 percent of its total notebook shipments by the end of this year, which will be lower than the 25 to 35 percent that the company forecast earlier because of less promotion from the industry.
Both Asustek and Acer are slated to hold pre-show conferences for Computex Taipei on June 4.
Computex Taipei, to be held June 5-9, will feature ultrabooks, smartphones, and e-reading and cloud technology.
The show is expected to attract more than 36,000 international buyers and generate US$28 billion in business, up from US$25 billion in 2011, the organizers estimated.
News from Focus Taiwan