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NPD: Ultrathins Struggle in 2012, but Surge by 2015

Thin will be in when it comes to laptops… eventually. That's the word from NPD DisplaySearch, the latest analytical firm to put the kibosh on Intel's claims that slim and trim Ultrabooks will capture a full 40 percent of the notebook market by the end of this year. Sales are definitely growing and projected to continue trending upward, however, as pricing for the premium PCs skews downward over the coming months.

DisplaySearch's latest report on ultra-slim PCs -- which includes Ultrabooks as well as Apple's MacBook line and ultrathin laptops that don't quite meet the Ultrabook definition, such as HP's Sleekbooks -- claims that only 3.4 million of the diminutive notebooks will sell in 2012, but that number should jump to 65 million by 2015 as more and more laptops shrink in size and weight to become more tablet-like.

Actual sales figures for ultra-slim PCs are hard to pin down, but two things are certain: Ultrabooks aren't selling at the brisk pace predicted by Intel, and technology analysts aren't bullish on the ultra-slim form factor's 2012 prospects. Ultrabook growth numbers are still outpacing the sluggish overall laptop market, however. While most notebook segment sales are flat or in outright decline, a June NPD report claimed that sales in the $900-plus segment -- where pretty much only Ultrabooks and gaming laptops go to play -- have blossomed by a tremendous 39 percent compared to 2011's numbers.

The DisplaySearch news comes hot on the heels of an IHS iSuppli report that cut its 2012 Ultrabook sales forecast in half, though the difference in sales number between the two reports shows why you should take analyst forecasts with a grain of salt. ISuppli expects 10 million Ultrabooks alone to ship by the end of this year, whereas NPD expects all ultra-thins combined to only move a third of that amount.