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Sales show tablets and Ultrabooks not rivals

Key battle is brand vs brand, not Ultrabook vs tablet

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Intel's hope that it can take on and beat the tablet with skinny laptops - Ultrabooks - may prove unfounded, in the UK at least.

That's the conclusion to be drawn from sales value data released by GfK, a market watcher, which shows that while tablets took a greater share of over-the-counter sales in February compared to February 2011, notebooks' share of sales fell.

In February 2011, tablets accounted for 10.1 per cent of sales value. A year on, the share was 16.5 per cent, down from seasonal peaks of 24.3 per cent in November 2011 and 32 per cent in December 2011.

Notebook sales value, by contrast fell from 57.8 per cent in February 2011 to 54.6 per cent in February 2012, GfK's numbers show.

Netbooks went from eight per cent to 2.4 per cent over the same period, desktops from 23.7 per cent to 25.4 per cent. The numbers don't add up to 100 per cent due to rounding, BTW.

From all that, GfK analyst Dominic Ashford concludes that while "there have been suggestions that solid state drive-enabled, ultra-thin PCs will re-assert notebooks’ significance… it seems that the higher Average Selling Prices (ASPs) and differing functionality of these devices mean that consumers will not be choosing between a [tablet] and an ultra-thin but rather between brands and models within those kinds of devices".

So folk after an Ultrabook won't generally be considering a tablet as an alternative, and vice versa. It's not iPad vs Acer Aspire S3, but Aspire S3 vs MacBook Air, for instance.

That explains, perhaps, the rising share of desktop computers. To Ashford that suggests punters are keener to buy the products they need and not simply grab the cheapest kit.

"What manufacturers and retailers will need to achieve in 2012 will be matching new technologies and form-factors to consumers’ needs," he said, "rather than a race to the bottom in terms of pricing." ®

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