NEW YORK –
The 2012 back-to-school selling season will feature two of the hottest computer products — tablets and Ultrabooks — vendors said.
Desktop and laptop computers have long been mainstay backto- school items, along with all their peripherals and accessories, but this year Ultrabooks will have their first impact on sales, despite the fact that the category is not even a year old.
While laptops will dominate sales, tablets will find a few niche places to grab some back-to-school dollars, mainly as secondary devices for college students.
Sam Morris, Lenovo’s education solutions manager, called the Ultrabook a very attractive form factor for college students, saying the design will have an impact on sales.
“The general specifications of the Ultrabook is desirable for a college student. They live out of their backpack, so the all-day battery and light weight is critical,” he said.
Eric Ackerson, Acer’s senior product marketing and brand manager, expects Ultrabooks to be a big sales hit this year. He credited this in part to Intel’s major marketing program, which will start in May.
“Back-to-school is the biggest selling cycle for laptops, and Ultrabooks will play a big role. This is a fun category, and there is lots of excitement surrounding it,” Ackerson said.
Lower price points for Ultrabooks could also help boost back-to-school sales. Ackerson expects prices to dip somewhat this summer as more models ship.
The upcoming release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system will also boost sales even though it is not expected to become available until late summer or early fall. The fact that Windows 8 is designed for touchscreen devices will make it a hit with Ultrabooks equipped these displays.
However, the Ultrabook’s higher average selling price can be a benefit to retailers. Intel’s Karen Regis, director consumer client marketing, consumer PC group, said Intel has done studies indicating retailers leave a lot of money on the table when it comes to backto- school sales. Essentially, consumers are willing to spend more if they feel the product is worthwhile.
“Ultrabooks are thin, light and responsive, which is great for students,” she said.
Tablets will play a different role during the back-toschool period. Ackerson noted that unlike laptops, tablet product introductions are not quite in sync with the back-to-school period, so new models will not be brought out specifically to school.
On the other hand, Ackerson said tablets will have a place this year, but the number of sales for back-toschool purposes will be far below notebooks.
“I can see retailers using [tablets] to pull people into stores,” he added.
Morris said tablets are taking on the role as a secondary device for college students. The general scenario has the student’s more powerful laptop sitting in their dorm room while the tablet is brought around for use as an e-reader and ultra-portable input device.
Adding to the tablet’s usefulness is the growing availability of electronic text books and the fact that so much educational material is disseminated online, so a tablet gives students ready access to this data, Morris said.