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One in four consumers with notebook replacement plans put unconventional designs on wish list

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 6, 2015
But convertibles and 2-in-1s won't solve the industry slowdown; too many consumers plan to keep what they have.

The remaining laptop owners with purchase intentions were the only bright spots for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) hoping to capitalize on what replacements will be sold. Thirteen percent of laptop owners who acknowledged they would buy in the next 12 months said that they would buy a convertible notebook, which Gartner defined as one whose screen does not detach, although it does pivot or fold back from the keyboard. Lenovo's Yoga line is among the best-known of such hybrids.

An additional 12% said they would purchase a 2-in-1 whose screen could be separated from the main body of the device -- a la Microsoft's own Surface Book -- in lieu of a traditional clamshell form factor.

In other words, a quarter of those thinking of refreshing their current notebook planned to migrate from an old-school-style design to one with more flexibility.

That's made analysts like Escherich and her Gartner colleagues bullish on the hybrid category, pegging it as the only real growth area for personal computers.

"Dissatisfaction with standard laptops comes from issues around battery life, weight and boot up times," said Escherich. "Others see the versatility of a hybrid meeting the needs of a tablet and a notebook, especially with the benefit of a keyboard. [And] users are definitely disenchanted with tablet-only usage, and most want their keyboard back. In fact, 45% of current tablet users want to swap form factor next time or at least aren't sure yet."

Gartner has predicted that by 2019, a third of traditional PCs will be replaced by what it dubbed "premium ultramobiles," a class that includes ultralight laptops such as Apple's MacBook Air, as well as 2-in-1s like Apple's iPad Pro and Microsoft's Surface Pro and Surface Book lines.

OEMs would love for Gartner to be right, since devices in that category are priced significantly higher than the average personal computer. In the third quarter, the average selling price (ASP) of all Apple Macs, most of which were laptops, was over $1,200, more than double the ASP of all notebooks. Microsoft wants to tap into that luxury market, too, and so has set the starting price of the Surface Book at $1,499.

The downside of the new choices, however, is well, that there are more choices. Significant chunks of each current device ownership class have no idea what they'll buy to replace what they plan to junk. Among desktop PC owners, it's 11%, with 13% of tablet owners in the same boat. Notebook owners are the most confused: 19%, or nearly one in five, answered "not sure" or "undecided" to the question.


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