“The high-end specifications for touch on Windows 8 PCs, and the unproven consumer demand for touch on notebooks has touch screen suppliers leery of shifting capacity from the high volume smartphone and tablet PC markets to notebook PCs,” said Richard Shim, senior analyst with NPD DisplaySearch.
The notebook PC industry is also facing limited supplies of the ultra-slim panels used to optimally manufacture ultra-slim PCs. The use of ultra-slim panels is one of the major methods used to reduce z-height, or thickness, which is the primary characteristic in meeting the requirements necessary to be labelled as ultra-slim PCs.
"The challenge from a production standpoint is that manufacturing ultra-slim glass (0.4mm and thinner) is not only difficult, but handling and transporting such fragile glass requires special equipment,” said Shim. “Only two panel suppliers, AUO and Innolux, are taking on the extra expense of using ultra-slim glass to offer panels in any significant volumes."
The ultra-slim PC market is expected to reach 44.2 million unit shipments worldwide in 2013, making up 21.4% of the notebook PC market. Touch screen availability is expected to increase and PC brands are looking into alternatives to ultra-slim panels to reduce thickness. Touch screen penetration in notebooks is expected to reach 13.1 percent, resulting in 27.2 million notebooks with touch capabilities in 2013, but that will gradually increase to 57 percent, or 106.6 million units, by 2017.
Figure 1. Worldwide Ultra-Slim PC Shipment Forecast (2012-2017)
The ultra-slim PC category is projected to grow steadily between 2014 and 2015, and eventually establish a standardized high-end notebook PC market. Ultra-slim PCs are not expected to significantly boost PC shipment growth overall but will create a more consistently defined high-end of the market, which will help to drive volumes and potentially lower costs. Ultimately, this will make such premium notebooks accessible to a larger segment of the market.