But Intel is also trying to battle tablets with notebooks using the chip maker's Ultrabook class of tablet-like ultraportable PCs first introduced in 2011. Despite a few reasonably priced notebooks packed with Ivy Bridge Core processors that rolled out last year, costly Ultrabooks in 2012 were a largely a flop.
But 2013 is a new year and a new hope for Ultrabooks as the specialized class of laptops takes on more tablet-like features. This year's crop is expected to come packed with touchscreens optimized for Microsoft's touch friendly Windows 8, convertible tablet functionality, and long-lasting batteries.
Although big on tablets, NPD also notes that notebooks could see a bump later this year when Intel rolls out its Haswell CPU that will succeed Ivy Bridge Core processors. Intel hopes Haswell will allow device makers to create Ultrabook convertibles for as little as $600. The chip maker at CES also introduced a revamped version of Ivy Bridge that consumes less power than its predecessor. Towards the end of 2013, Intel is also slated to release Bay Trail, the next version of low-powered Atom mobile processors.
A $600 Haswell-based Ultrabook would be particularly interesting since that would put notebook-tablet hybrids within spitting distance of 9- and 10-inch tablets, typically priced around $500 and up. But Ultrabooks will still be more expensive than devices such as theKindle Fire,Nexus 7, and iPad Mini. The tablets that NPD expects to dominate the worldwide market in 2013 with starting prices ranging between $200 and $330.
But even if 7- to 8-inch tablets dominate in 2013, it's a long way to 2017 when tablets are expected to dominate mobile PC shipments. And if CES and the Windows 8 rollout in late 2012 are any guide, by 2017 tablets and laptops may have very well converged into a single hybrid device.