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Are slow sales forcing Asus, Acer to cut ultrabook orders?

The only sometimes reliable Web site Digitimes says the companies have cut ultrabook orders by 40 percent through the end of 2011.

Is the Asus Zenbook a disappointment at retail?
Is the Asus Zenbook a disappointment at retail? Sarah Tew/CNET

If you believe Digitimes, Asus and Acer have cut ultrabook orders by 40 percent due to sluggish demand for the ultrathin laptops.

Of course, Digitimes is often wildly wrong, so take this news with the requisite grain of salt.

Digitimes claims that Asus and Acer planned to order a combined 250,000 to 300,000 ultrabooks by the end of 2011. However, "due to the unsatisfactory sales during the initial month after their launch," the companies have revised 2011 shipments down to between 150,000 units and 180,000 units, the site reports.

Neither Acer nor Asus immediately responded to CNET's request for comment on the Digitimes report.

It isn't clear exactly why ultrabooks like the Acer Aspire S3 and the Asus Zenbook UX31 haven't caught on. CNET senior editor Scott Stein thinks the problem is that most ultrabooks are largely indistinguishable from Apple's popular MacBook Air.

As Stein pointed out last month:

Any of these laptops are, first and foremost, MacBook Air-alikes. Yet, somehow, Apple's MacBook Air is a nothing-alike: it stands alone. It's earned that distinction, because it was the first kid on the block: the first Air debuted in January 2008. It's also the most likely laptop to be recognized out of a lineup by 10 random people on the street, by a long shot.

Despite that problem and Digitimes' naysaying, the future looks surprisingly bright for ultrabooks. Earlier this week, market research firm IHS-iSuppli said ultrabooks will control over 40 percent of the laptop market by 2015, up from the 2 percent share it expects the devices to capture this year.