As the world continues to fancy smartphones and tablets, the notebook market appears to be falling into limbo. Many people believe that smartphones and tablets are the only future for computing devices and that the notebook is a dying product, even with its new make-up (i.e., Ultrabook or ultraportable).
At the beginning of 2012 there was much excitement around the introduction of a new form factor called Ultrabook married with Windows 8. At Semico Research Corp. , we were also excited about this new platform and expected computer manufacturers to take the general guidelines set forth by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and innovate off of them to create an exciting new computing platform. As the year progressed, Windows 8 was delayed, and innovation in the design and implementation of the ultraportable lacked creative and critical thinking by designers.
PC manufacturers have taken a defensive posture trying to protect their market share and pricing structure of the computing market versus taking an offensive approach by offering innovative designs. It appears that most computer manufacturers lack the understanding of the consumer and how their usage model has changed as a result of smartphones and tablets. PC manufacturers have taken some of the smartphone and tablet innovations but are only incorporating them in bits and pieces and not embracing them in their totality. We believe this is a major mistake and one reason why we see a slower adoption rate for these new platforms.
Instant-on is a great feature that consumers love and are growing to expect that in their electronics. PC manufacturers have adopted solid-state drives to achieve the near instant-on ability, but most still attach a heavy rotating hard drive that sucks power and adds weight. Maybe PC manufacturers haven’t noticed that consumers are buying tablets and smartphones by the hundreds of millions with SSD capacity of 64GB or less. A 3.0 USB port is now standard and would allow consumers to have an external large rotating hard drive for additional storage space that they would not have to carry with them all the time.
Touchscreen is universally accepted by consumers, yet the PC manufacturers only offer touchscreen or gesture control in a few models and are holding the touchscreen option as a premium product. Really? PC manufacturers need to get with the times. For the PC to survive, it needs to compete with the smartphone and tablet. That means a manufacturer must offer all of the features, not just one or two of them.
Weight and battery life has always been critical. Some manufacturers have gone to aluminum cases to add strength to the thinner Ultrabooks. This may not be enough. Think outside the box: How about using carbon fiber for the screen backing? It’s lighter and stronger than aluminum and would add to a more innovative design.
Smartphones and tablets are great and have been described as “lean back” products, as they tend to be easier to use when relaxing in a chair. Traditional notebooks are described as lean forward devices as they are more appropriate when at a desk. There are several models of Ultrabooks that do convert into a tablet form factor, and this is where weight and performance becomes critical.
We believe the notebook market is not dead or dying; it tends to be a better device when you are creating content, versus just listening or watching. However, Ultrabooks need creative thinking to propel innovation in this product segment. Let’s get the offensive team back on the field and offer up a more exciting competition. To read the more detailed analysis on this subject in the December issue of the IPI, contact Rick Vogelei at email@example.com.