2012 report: Ultrabooks to take off, shrinking drive sizes & more

The new year is never short on high hopes for existing technology and an insatiable thirst for the next big thing; for last year’s dream machine to become this year’s reality.

Research company IHS has compiled 10 events it believes will reshape consumer electronics and technology industries in 2012. Among the more intriguing predictions: how tablets will duke it out with desktops (and possibly come out on top); the ultrabook as a “savior” for PC makers; and big changes to shrink hard disk drive sizes.

Ultrabooks will deliver just the shot in the arm the portable PC market needs, said Dale Ford, head of electronics & semiconductor research at IHS. The analyst revealed that shipment figures for the device will grow from under 1 million last year to 29 million by the end of 2012.

“The arrival of Intel Corp.’s standard means the ultrabook will proliferate beyond Apple Inc.’s MacBook Air and start to move into the mainstream,” said Ford. “This is the start of a long-term trend that will have major repercussions on the technology value chain for years to come.”

Acer’s Aspire S3 ultrabook has struggled at retail thanks to its prohibitive $1,000 price tag. The manufacturer hopes to change that, planning a slight $100-$200 price drop this year and a $499 model sometime in 2013. Intel also dropped the cost of its Sandy Bridge processor in December to make way for the next-gen chip, Ivy Bridge.

SSD and HDD makers are also set to grab a piece of the new market thanks to a growing need for both NAND flash memory and thinner hard drives. Storage Analyst Fang Zhang said that Seagate, Western Digital and others will eventually slim down their products’ sizes from 9.5mm to 7mm to 5mm in order to accommodate the super-thin devices.

Major HDD companies are still recovering from flooding in Thailand that left factories submerged and supply chains crippled. (via IHS)