NPD Group Logo

According to Intel, 2012 is the year of the Ultrabook. According to AMD, 2012 is the year of the Ultrathin. No matter how you look at it, the fall should be marked with thin notebooks. NPD Group shows that both companies are right, as consumers are starting to purchase more and more compact laptops.

All the major players in the industry are pulling forward with the thin notebooks. Regardless of the platform manufacturer, being thin is not just the obsession in fashion, but the computing world seems to like thin as well.

NPD Group, a well-known market analysis firm released a report on notebook sales in the U.S. during the first five months of 2012. The report states that Ultrabook and Ultrathin devices (the group makes no difference between Intel and AMD) already make for almost 11% of premium priced notebooks on the U.S. retail market. When it comes to premium price, the bar is set at $700. While this sounds quite good, the fact of the matter is that the premium notebook market in the U.S. is allegedly dominated by Apple, as sales of premium Windows-based notebooks dropped by 17%.

Looking into the report, it seems that Windows devices are pressured from multiple sides. For starters, we are witnessing the rise of mobile devices such as tablets, as well as the continuing wait for the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system. Most premium notebook customers are well-educated in market trends and the technology in general, and in general they want to get the latest and the greatest. Do note that the analysis did not cover the graduation month e.g. June, which we estimate to be one of strong pushers for awarding graduates, as well as Fathers Day events.

Furthermore, the report served a point on smoke and mirrors. While there seems to be an illusion of Apple dominating the premium notebook sales, the fact of the matter is that Apple’s Mac OS X operating system share isn’t growing at the pace stock analysts would like to. For example, In August of 2011 Mac OS X had a 6.03% share. Almost a year later, the share grew to 6.72%. At the same time, Microsoft Windows OS share dropped from 92.90% to 92.23%. Tectonic movements? We don’t think so. It looks to us that the company has a core audience that continuously upgrades its platform as soon as the new one shows, but most of new customers come from purchasing tablets and mobile phones.

Still, seeing Ultrabooks capturing 11% of the market is encouraging, as it helped to drive the ASP (Average Selling Price) up by $13 for the overall Windows PC platform when compared to 2011. When Ultrabook platform first appeared on the market, we saw the prices averaging $900 and more, but the prices are now coming down to a more reasonable level, dipping to an average of $885 in May 2012.

Second half of the year will be a completely different story. Over the past seven weeks, we attended no less than five trade shows and conferences, in which it was clearly shown what level of innovation we can expect – Windows 8 will bring a series of touchscreen thin notebooks e.g. Ultrabooks/Ultrathins, and only the end of the year report will confirm or deny real trends in the industry.