For those looking for a lightweight web-browsing, media consuming, and casual game-playing machine for 2012, the current Ultrabook lineup doesn't always add up against the iPad. Though notebooks and desktop computers have been around for quite a few more years than the iPad, the latter essentially wrote the book on a vertically integrated hardware and software experience with Apple. Netbooks died because they couldn't replace what the laptop did for them for computing power - now the Ultrabook is here with plenty of power that the average person simply does not need. Is the iPad that perfect medium for the post-PC era?
I personally own a 3rd generation iPad which I picked up and traded out for the iPad 2 this year. I've also had at least one Ultrabook in my possession as a review unit here for SlashGear since before the year 2012 began. Now I've come to the following conclusion: the reason Ultrabooks aren't selling very well is because for the extra $300 USD or so they cost over the iPad, they just do not present enough benefits.
This week the Wall Street Journal reported that Acer's Ultrabook shipments recently had a 72% drop in net profit (as reported this most recent fiscal quarter). They hypothesize the following, per Dow Jones Newswire's own Aries Poon:
"Some analysts said Acer is placing too big a bet on Ultrabooks, as the market potential for these laptops is unclear. The Taiwanese PC maker, which derives more than half of its revenue from selling middle- to low-priced laptops, hasn't been able to grab a meaningful share in the Ultrabook market where premium pricing is the norm, analysts added." - Poon
This is in addition to notes reported by the New York Times showing that research firms NPD Group and Gartner are not currently able to get an accurate reading on the success of the Ultrabook on the whole because there simply aren't that many of them out there - either on the market or being sold.
"It’s a very, very small part of the market at the moment. We really don’t know." - Mika Kitagawa, Gartner Analyst
The folks at Gartner also spoke, again, on how the tablet industry, notably the iPad, had a much better value proposal with the $499 tablet as opposed to the $800 Ultrabook. Analyst Stephen Baker for the NPD Group spoke on how he and NPD felt it was too early to tell how the Ultrabook would do in the market, but made sure to mention that there simply isn't a lot of products on the market at the moment.
"The initial read is that the ultrabook is still small, growing a bit, but way too soon to make any judgment. Consumers are interested, but there aren’t a lot of products to buy quite yet." - Baker, NPD
Keeping in mind the die-hard Windows OS user out there, one must recognize that even with the power presented in today's Ultrabooks with Intel processors onboard there's a sense that a larger more powerful home computer is still needed for hardcore tasks like gaming and video processing. This is also true of the iPad. Until the Ultrabook can replace both the netbook and the desktop computer, the iPad will beat it in its much more concentrated vision for what it can and should be used for.
For users seeing the iPad as a good alternative to a small notebook except for the fact that it does not have a physical keyboard, there's always the Logitach Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, for example, only adding $99.99 to your total. It'll protect your iPad's screen to boot!
I've got a 15-inch MacBook Pro I use for daily work - writing, image processing, and video processing. I've also got a MacBook Air 11-inch which I use for big press events and on-location low-impact writing. If I'm going to pay significantly more than $500 for a computing device for on-the-go web-browsing, media consumption, and general communication in notebook form, I'd much rather have the proven performance that a MacBook Air brings. The numbers and findings you see above show that it's more than just myself thinking that same way here in 2012.
How about you?
If you had a need for a mobile computing device (not just a smartphone) and had more than $500 burning a hole in your pocket, what would you rather spend it on? I'd rather have an iPad and pocket all the cash that's left.