However, by the time Windows 8 comes out, ultrabooks could have competitors in laptops using ARM processors, which will support Microsoft's upcoming OS. That could tilt the usage model around ultrabooks, and PC makers will have opportunities to explore relationships outside the traditional Wintel alliances, Kay said.
Windows 8 ultrabooks could be good business laptops because of mobility and support for legacy x86 software, which ARM will struggle with, Kay said.
Volume ultrabook shipments are not expected until the laptop prices fall, according to Stephen Baker, vice president at NPD. But if the products attract buyers at $799 or $899, it could an "interesting market," Baker said.
PC makers could choose to sell ultrabooks as high-end products with larger profit margins, much like Apple with the MacBook Air, Baker said. Alternatively, a price of $699 represents a volume opportunity for ultrabooks, and as the price falls, the product could take off with consumers over the next few years.
"There needs to be an upgrade to the ecosystem and component availability," Baker said
Research firm IHS iSuppli this week predicted that ultrabook shipments will be 136.5 million in 2015, up from less than 1 million this year.