MacBook Soars While Ultrabooks Fizzle

By | Jul 16, 2012

Apple's MacBook Air is flying off store shelves. On the other hand, ultrabooks--thin, lightweight Windows laptops intended to compete with the Apple product--are gathering dust. The new sales data underscores what the consumerization of IT is really about.

As the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement takes hold, the devices that flood into the IT workplace are increasingly shaped by the consumer marketplace. And that marketplace is highly subjective, a place where styling and branding can prevail over specs and features. When it comes to consumer styling and branding, Apple is the master of the universe, a fact that IT departments at midsize firms are now having to deal with.

Ultrabooks Gasping For Air

A report from analysis firm IDC shows that PC sales remain flat for the seventh quarter in a row. And, as Brook Crothers reports at CNET, the IDC findings are particularly downbeat for ultrabooks. According to IDC analyst Jay Chou, "the volume isn't there and it's going to be way below what Intel had hoped for."

Ultrabook sales this year come to about half a million, with about a million expected to sell by the end of the year. Meanwhile, 2.8 million MacBooks were sold in the last quarter alone.

Chou does note that this year's weak sales performance may not be the final word for ultrabooks. With the debut of Windows 8, utrabooks running it could get a second chance to catch on in the marketplace.

But Chou also noted that it will be hard to catch Apple in a segment that the company nearly invented. While ultrabooks typically have more impressive specs than the Apple product, this does not seem to matter as much to consumers.

Score One More For the Apple Mystique

The fact is that higher-end portable computers, like their fully mobile counterparts, are no longer essentially utilitarian devices. They have become consumer lifestyle accessories. As such, they are subject to all the vagaries of fashion, style, ego-gratification, and all the other things that consumer marketers have learned to appeal to over the years.

Perhaps, too, the gradual fading of automotive culture in American life means that horsepower, or equivalent performance specs, no longer has the sheer emotional draw it once did.

The sales popularity of the MacBook suggests that the consumerization of IT is not only about smartphones and other mobile devices. It may be posed to move up the IT food chain to include laptops (and thus their operating systems) as well.

For IT managers at midsize firms, this could end up meaning that they must learn to love OS X as well. Those who are Apple fanboys or fangirls will find this easy. But even those who aren't may at least have to learn to live with it.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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