I have a Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) notebook computer that desperately needs to be left on a railroad track. It needs to go, I hate it. I want a Haswell Ultrabook. Haswell is the code name for the new (fourth generation) Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) low power (long battery life) processor. I want it with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB Solid State Drive. It doesn't exist.
Yesterday I called Dell to see if they had a Haswell Ultrabook. Nope. I called the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Store; surely if there was any Haswell Ultrabook in existence the Microsoft store would know about it. They put me on hold for 15 minutes, then hung up on me. I called back, same thing, 10 minute hold. They said that HP (NYSE:HPQ) had a Haswell convertible Ultrabook. It turned out to be an Ivy Bridge (third generation) Ultrabook. I called and visited Best Buy and talked to the "Experts". They weren't quite sure what I was talking about. Lenovo had nothing yet.
The Haswell processor has been shipping for about 2½ months. The problem is that the only thing that has been available to WinTel PC manufacturers is the "desktop" Haswell at 47 watts TDP or more, not exactly what I had in mind.
On the other hand I can buy an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Macbook Air with an ultra-low voltage Haswell CPU today at three pounds and 12 hour battery life. The problem with that is that my brain is too arthritic to make the change to Apple. I've tried. I love the format of the 13 inch Air, but unfortunately, I was sold a defective unit and had nothing but trouble with it. When the "geniuses" finally decided that I was right about the defective thing, I was too disgusted with the Apple arrogance to waste more of the only life I get trying to pull up my windows roots and transplant them to Mac.
So, what's going on here? It is obvious to me that the windows based PC business is in total disarray.
Dell is in a buyout fight while customers take gas. HP can't really decide whether they want to be in the PC business or not, and it shows. Maybe Lenovo survives; my odds-on favorite to prosper is Toshiba. Toshiba has a third generation Ultrabook at 2 ½ lbs, and at least they knew, for sure, that they don't have a Haswell Ultrabook yet. The retailers are, for the most part, incompetent, even at the highest (Microsoft) level. Intel has been pushing Ultrabooks for two years and now doesn't seem to support the product with the latest technology.
Gartner and IHS enjoy repeating exaggerated rates of decline in the PC business and say nothing when they are repeatedly proven wrong. The actual number of Intel processors shipped during the second quarter was 5% above the number shipped in the first quarter, you would have to make the effort to scroll down to the end of the linked document to learn that. The number of Intel CPU chips shipped year-to-date 2013 is indeed down 6% from the Year-to-date numbers for 2012. So maybe tablets aren't tearing up the Intel pavement as bad as nearly all pundits would have you believe.
What I find absolutely astonishing is that PC sales aren't even much lower than the erroneous numbers published by Gartner and IHS. The PC OEMS are trying to foist the same old boat anchors on the consumer while working inventory down to nothing waiting for Intel to ship the "right stuff". And, of course, the PC retail sellers are completely clueless.
OK, it took a while to get the point of this article. That is that Apple has effectively had an exclusive on ultra-low voltage Haswells for use in their Macbook Air for, as of today, 43days. Apple reports earnings after the close today. They will include the number of Mac sold for the quarter. That number has been about four million units for the past five quarters, with only one spike to 4.9 million in the October 2012 quarter based on an upgrade to one of the non-Air Macs. I will be curious to see whether this exclusivity on low power Haswells for 20 days of the second quarter will change that four million units. The Air has to be about half of Mac sales by now. If total Mac sales are say, 4.5 million for the second quarter, I would say that the low power Haswell in the hands of a competent marketing system (Apple) has made a difference.
From there, one might project a serious recovery in the notebook PC business once the Apple exclusivity "experiment" is finished and the "good stuff" is available to the WinTel boys.
This whole thing begs the question, "Why is Intel favoring Apple with the good parts?"
- Is Intel angry at the lack of creativity on the part of the WinTel boys?
- Does Intel owe Apple something? Like maybe a payoff for ripping off the Air format and calling it Ultrabook.
- Is the Apple/Intel relationship much better than anyone has dared speculate?
- Has Intel learned that competent arrogance (Apple) trumps friendly ignorance (PC selling network)?
The bottom line is that Apple is getting the low power Haswells and the WinTel guys are not. It does say that Intel can build the low power parts and when they give them to the rest of the world we will likely see a surge in PC sales.
In the meantime, I want my Haswell Ultrabook!
Disclosure: I am long INTC. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.