Occasionally, like every business, we update our plans and predictions to make sure we’re on the right course. We’ve just done that for the Ultrabook sector and from what we can see there’s a lot of potential in 2013 for Ultrabooks to rise to the levels of sales that netbooks had three years ago – an ecosystem that many were happy to be in. There’s potential for more in 2014 too as the Ultrabook moves into its third generation. This will be the Ultrabook that Intel wanted to make from day one and is the only Ultrabook iteration that should be used to evaluate the segment. We’re positive that prices, performance, style, battery life, operating system and form factors will impress customers and developers to make the upgrade in 2013 and that we’ll see an impressive sales spike later in the year.
The recent Google trend for search is echoed almost exactly at Ultrabooknews.com in terms of traffic. We had an incredible Q4 2012 that started as Windows 8 launched and we saw viewer numbers rise by 2X, advertising rates go up by 2x – the best quarter the company has had since it started it in 2007. We sold a large number of Ultrabooks through our affiliate schemes too which tells us it wasn’t just users peeking into the segment following marketing and advertising. We even saw traffic peaks that co-included exactly, to the hour, with USA TV advertising campaigns. They worked, and the Ultrabook Convertible keyword turned out to be valuable in Q4 2013
In the trend graph above (latest here) you can see the interest grow 2X after the Windows 8 launch. Advertising rates went up by at least 2X for Ultrabook terms at that period and we saw an increase in click-through rates too. Obviously the ads were relevant to our readers where previously there had been a lack of pure Ultrabook ad inventory.
The trend in Ultrabook pricing is down, fast. It’s what consumers want.
We recently posted some details of an offer on a touchscreen Windows 8 convertible with 1600×900 screen and SSD. $899 [article.] That was a device that would have been $1200 in 2012. The budget Ultrabook models are at the sub-$600 mark. Lenovo is really pushing hard with the U310 for example. You can get a Core i5 model with hybrid HDD for under $600. The cheapest Ultrabooks are at the $500 mark (E.g. Toshiba U945 with Core i3 Ivy Bridge, hybrid HDD for $504.) We started just 22 months ago at double that price. Price will not be an issue in the latter part of 2013 and in 2014. (On a side-note, that will hurt AMD.)
Trends in Touch
The ASUS VivoBook X202E touchscreen laptop is the #10 best seller in the laptop (not Ultrabook) category at Amazon.com right now. It’s not an Ultrabook because it doesn’t have the hybrid hard drive but the Ultrabook version of it, the ASUS Vivobook S400 with a bigger battery and the SSD cache is the #14 best-seller. That indicates significant sales and acceptance of touchscreens. In fact the only Ultrabooks in the top 30 Amazon best-sellers list are touchscreen-enabled. The Lenovo Yoga 13 is at #22 and the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist is at #26 indicating some interest in the convertibles too. We’re seeing unprecedented interest in the Lenovo Thinkpad Helix and that should be available in just weeks. The next generation of Ultrabooks will all be touch-enabled and there’ll be a new range of convertibles so it appears that the path that Intel has chosen to take is the right one.
Interest in Ultrabooks has tailed off a lot since Christmas, as has news, advertising and general marketing but we’re still up about 2X over this time last year in terms of affiliate sales revenue. As mentioned, the company had the best quarter ever in Q4 2012 and although part of that was due to advertising revenue, a large part of it was affiliate sales revenue. Secondly, Haswell is coming and may have put the brakes on the Ultrabook market like Windows 8 did last year. Those brakes come off in June, not October as n 2012.
In 2012 we predicted 20 million Ultrabook sales. We revised that to 10 million based on our affiliate sales, viewer trends and other market reports. In 2013 we predict 40 million sales, mostly in 2H sales. Juniper research predicted (in April 2012) that Ultrabook sales will take of in 2014 and rise to 176 million in 2016. We agree with the 2014 take-off.
Obviously we pay attention to what others are saying about Ultrabooks and we’re seeing a lot of negative sentiment out there right now. Ultrabooks did not reach the targets that Intel had set and are likely to have underperformed most other predictions for 2012. PC sales are falling. Intel profits are down. It’s an easy target for tech journalists but in almost all cases there’s just not enough data to justify the headline.
Here’s an example: PCWorld says (June 2012) “Ultrabooks sales have flopped” based on the smallest of data snippets from Gartner on PC sales. Headlines like that are cheap and it’s unfortunate that others will read those headlines and use that as the final word.
There’s one silver lining in that some media outlets could be baiting for instant readers and SEO purposes and they would only do that if there was potential. Unfortunately in this age of search-term-led journalism, writing bad news is the same as writing good news as far as Google is concerned so maybe the SEO statisticians have seen Ultrabook on the radar and are preparing.
There’s an important media month coming and coverage during June 2013 will be critical to the success of Ultrabooks. Haswell will launch and the final major iteration of the Ultrabook will be revealed along with new Ultrabook convertibles and dockable solutions. There will be a huge range of products at a wide range of prices. Some will be Connected Standby capable – a feature that requires smartphone-like power control and one that many journalists haven’t yet experienced or experimented with. Touch, 1080p screens, the required Wireless Display, more SSDs, twice the graphics power, thinner designs, fanless designs. Intel could have a surprise too and there’s some potential here for ground-breaking features. The Android/Windows hybrid and the dockable, wireless-charging smartwatch are two ideas we’re tracking.
Will mainstream journalists consider the Ultrabook to be a worthwhile addition to a persons computing arsenal after June? Why not? Tablets provide a wide-range of personal computing capabilities but there’s still a requirement for keyboard, video editing, storage, security, accessibility and business applications. Tablets take away the requirement for cheap laptops, not the requirement for laptops that dovetail perfectly with tablets and smartphones – Ultrabooks.
The final Ultrabook solution will be revealed in June according to the Intel Ultrabook timelines we’ve seen over the last two years. Haswell is the first CPU designed with Ultrabooks in mind and Intel sees it all coming together with touch and Windows 8 for, we assume, their best possible shot at turning the laptop market around and generating interest but the problem is that there may not be enough momentum in the ecosystem yet. Does the Ultrabook need a second push in 2014? Maybe marketing money is all that is needed. Maybe more technology is needed. We’ll have to wait to see what happens in Q3 2013. Here’s the predicted timeline.
Based on our renewed confidence in the Ultrabook sector we will be ramping up for June with more news and additional effort on promoting and sharing our expertise. The market will get a little more complicated as new customers come across features for the first time and we would like to further establish ourselves as the experts that can help directly. Our five-point plan is:
- Increase post numbers in the ramp-up towards Computex in June. This has two aims. Firstly to increase our visibility in search results and to better compete with larger media organizations and spam bloggers that are pumping out articles in increasing numbers. Secondly to give readers a warm feeling that we’re alive and up-to-date and to encourage regular return visits.
- Increase activity on our Facebook page. Following a year testing Google Plus and Facebook as places to interact with readers and buyers we’ll be using Facebook as our advice channel. We won’t be reducing our activity on Google Plus, just increasing activity on Facebook.
- Update and improve the automated buying advisor in partnership with Larovo. We will evaluate the most important Ultrabooks in the market and make sure that customers can find solutions that fit their requirements.
- Page speed improvement. Our product pages take too long to load. We’ll fix that.
- Attend Computex, IFA and IDF events to get early information and hands-on with the new Haswell-based Ultrabooks and Tablets.
At this stage, no-one has enough information to call the Ultrabook market a flop or a dead-end. The PC market is declining but we don’t know what’s happening at a macro level. Sales are up, prices are dropping, there’s a major OS update planned and the final major build of the Ultrabook in due in June. Yes, the Ultrabook is a fledgling but the feathers are nearly fully grown. From a business perspective we’re happy with the direction, growth and strategy and we’re ready to watch the bird fly.