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Worldwide Notebook PC Market Favors Low-Cost Models

As previously reported, the prior global adoption of ultrabook PCs has been underwhelming. Regardless, there is some residual demand for these expensive devices. An estimated 12.3 percent (22.5 million devices) of the notebook PC shipments in 2013 (182.7 million) fit into the ultra-portable segment, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.

In total, the year-on-year growth of ultra-portable PCs reached 100 percent from 2012 to 2013. But that's still a relatively small part of the overall worldwide personal computer marketplace.

"Across 24 countries tracked in November 2013, we found average ultra-portable PC selling prices ranging from $940 to $1540 with the majority of models offered above $1200 in each country," says Jeff Orr, senior practice director at ABI Research.

The average selling prices (ASP) suggest ultra-portables -- including the convertible and detachable 2-in-1 configurations -- remained at the high-end of the notebook PC category exiting 2013.

Beyond Apple’s MacBook Air running MacOS, the bulk of ultra-portable PCs are powered by the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system, which according to ABI's assessment suffered fits and starts during 2013 -- due to usability issues and poor first impressions by early adopter audiences.

A revision, Windows 8.1, was released in the second half of the year to address these concerns, though popular opinion suggests many considering a refresh to their existing systems are willing to wait for the hiccups to be worked out before making a financial commitment.

And, with competitive media tablet prices consistently declining year-over-year, many people that are still reeling from a global recession are willing to experiment with the very capable low-cost cloud-centric form factor of an affordable tablet device.

Moreover, looking ahead, ABI Research expects 4G LTE mobile broadband to become a standard feature differentiator for the mobile network operator channel, enhancing its selling opportunity beyond smartphones.

"As LTE reaches critical mass for network coverage, markets will be able to abandon 3G mode compatibility and carriers will readily shift toward LTE-only modems in data-centric computing applications," adds Orr.

By 2015, North America will relinquish the regional lead for ultra-portables as Asia-Pacific pushes forward due to market saturation in the early adopter countries.

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