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Ultrathin revolution starved for power

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Ultrathin notebooks may be all the rage these days, but there's one big barrier standing in the way of their seemingly unstoppable march to market dominance: Apparently, Apple has a stranglehold on the batteries needed to power them.

According to a report on Thursday by the Taiwanese market-watchers at DigiTimes, those batteries are in short supply, seeing how Apple has "booked up most of the available lithium-polymer battery capacity in the IT market."

Lithium-polymer batteries are used in the slimmest of the slim devices inciting gadget greed these days: tablets and ultrathin notebooks.

According Intel, DigiTimes reports, 40 per cent of all consumer notebooks will be classed as ultrathins by the end of next year. Of course, it's in Intel's interest to burn that number into the public consciousness, having just released new "Sandy Bridge" CPUs specifically suited for ultrathins.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini, speaking at his company's Investors Day last month, extolled the future of ultrathin notebooks, saying that they would "redefine the consumer PC experience." His presentation included a slide displaying a marketeer's dream of the ultrathinnest of ultrathins.

Intel's ultraslim 'Redefining the Consumer PC Experience'

Since Intel is merely dreaming of an ultrathin device, it can dream as thin as it likes (source: Intel)

Following Otellini's lead, Intel chief salesman Sean Maloney talked ultraslims at this month's Computex trade show in Taiwan. At that event, Acer added its TravelMate 8481 to the anorexic-notebook parade, as did Asus with its UX Series.

But as DigiTimes reports, PC vendors who have ultrathins in their roadmaps "are currently searching aggressively for new supply sources, according to sources from battery players," because Apple got to the existing suppliers first, using its $66bn war chest to lock up supplier commitments.

Apple's own ultrathin, the MacBook Air, has been selling faster than cheap beer on a spring-break beach ever since the $999, 11.6–inch version was released last October.

Apple MacBook Air

Apple's MacBook Air may not be as ultrathin as Intel's dream machine, but at least it actually exists (source: Apple)

One analyst predicts that the MacBook Air will account for 48 per cent of all MacBooks sold this year. That's not an insignificant number, considering that Apple sold 2.8 million notebooks in its most recent quarter, a 53 per cent jump from the same quarter in 2010, when it sold 1.8 million.

You can't fault Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and whomever else for wanting to grab a piece of that action.

That is, if they can find a place to buy batteries. ®

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