Ultrabook manufacturers are looking into alternate materials to adorn their “Macbook Air Killers” as Apple gets first dibs on the machines used to crank out those beautiful unibody chassis matched with a price point that allows paying a premium for aluminum. This is a move that could spell disaster for the new form factor before it is even out of the gate, at least for the beige box competitors.
Business 101: Supply & Demand
When the demand for materials goes up, so does price. It currently costs $40-$80 to crank out an aluminum unibody chassis. On the other hand, going El-Cheapo and opting to incorporate plastic into the mix cuts those prices by over 50 percent. Not only does this cause the aluminum costs to soar, but it also increases the time it takes to mill the competing products.
Each unibody shell takes three hours to CNC. That means each machine can only crank out eight unibody chassis per day. With a few large producers all working for Apple, the Cupertino company had nothing to worry about. Nowadays though, with the Ultrabook on the horizon, the supply of aluminum isn’t meeting the market demands and many competing companies are being forced to adopt new materials such as high density fiberglass or an aluminum / plastic hybrid chassis just to keep up in the unibody war.
It’s obvious that the competitors are feeling cornered, but we aren’t talking about mom and pop outfits here. The list of competitors includes IBM, Samsung, and the rest of the ‘beige-box’ PC gang. What the competition fails to realize is that they can’t simply beat Apple on price point alone. If that was the case, netbooks would have already toppled Apple. Instead, the competition needs to bring a product to the table that is equal in performance under the hood, and better designed.
Volume, multiplied by cost
There isn’t a supplier out there that would turn down a parts order if the money made sense, so the good ‘ole boys club that we call the PC industry needs to stop being cheap and start producing a product people will actually be happy to admit they own. The only other option for these companies is to sit back and let Apple hoard personal computer market share, while their own market share stagnates.