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Upside Opportunities for Ultra-Portable PC Segment

According to the latest market study by ABI Research, despite the ongoing marketing campaign to educate audiences about the Intel-based ultrabook computers, most mainstream potential users have not been interested in these relatively high-priced systems.

In hindsight, ABI believes that Intel was too optimistic with its prediction that 40 percent of all notebook computers this year would be ultrabooks. Clearly, that has not happened.

Uptake of expensive thin and light notebook computers during the first half of 2012 was disappointing, though new market data from ABI Research now forecasts 20 million will ship worldwide in 2012.

Ultrabooks -- a term coined by Intel for ultra-portable computers based on its processor architecture -- are part of the broader portable computing market typically associated with the latest notebook PC phenomenon.

Targeted at the mid-range to high-range price category, the most popular ultra-portable computer today is the Apple MacBook Air.

"Initial ultrabooks came to market several hundred dollars above consumer expectations," says Jeff Orr, senior practice director at ABI Research. "High systems prices and waiting for the upcoming Windows 8 operating system are two leading reasons for lack of adoption."

Next-generation systems that bring prices down closer to audience requirements along with touch-screen models that provide versatile input methods are promised for 2013.

ABI says that the overall ultra-portable segment has significant growth potential as consumer expectations are met. A healthy growth rate of 53 percent is predicted over the 2012 to 2017 forecast period.

At the low-end of portable computing is the Netbook PC. Netbooks kept the portable computing market afloat during the 2009 global recession by offering a low-cost solution for families and students. However, the majority of PC OEMs have now shifted focus away from the low-margin netbook PC toward more profitable media tablets.

The remaining netbook vendors are focused on educational deployments as a learning tool. Both OLPC and Intel's Classmate PC partners continue to promote the use of technology within classroom settings all over the globe.

More than 15 million netbooks are expected to ship worldwide this year. Latin America has already taken advantage of the netbook opportunity, while the Eastern European markets are ramping deployments.

Looking forward, the upside opportunities of adoption for Intel ultrabooks are still unknown. Will these high-margin systems develop a sizable market? We'll have to wait and see.

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