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Will ultrabooks, Windows 8 finally spur PC growth?

Newfangled PCs running on Microsoft's next operating system may be the start of a new PC era.

Intel's Ivy Bridge-based hybrid.  A concept now, reality in the second half of the year when Windows 8 comes.
Intel's Ivy Bridge-based hybrid. A concept now, reality in the second half of the year when Windows 8 comes. Intel

Intel's CEO believes that ultrabooks and Windows 8 will combine to spark PC market growth. Is he right or is it just wishful thinking?

Here's what Paul Otellini said yesterday during the company's earnings conference call responding to an analyst's question about ultrabooks:

"The Ultrabook...we said that's going to be 40 percent of consumer notebooks at year end...[The market] has not had a lot of new and exciting products the last few years."

He continued. "And so this year, you've got a one-two punch with Intel and Microsoft, both delivering dynamite products that are the results of years of innovation and lots of R&D. And we're hoping -- we are optimistic that the combination of those 2 will bring growth."

In part, of course, that's wishful thinking. The PC market is hardly going gangbusters so, to counter that, the CEO of the largest PC chip supplier has to be upbeat.

On the other hand, Windows 8 running on top of a well-executed tablet-laptop hybrid design could spur growth.

That is, if a combination of Apple's iPad, new Android tablets, and Windows 8 tablets based on ARM processors don't, in fact, stymie Intel growth even more.

Along those lines, here's how Otellini responded to an analyst's question about emerging markets and if those markets will favor the ultrabook or the tablet.

"I don't think anyone in the world knows the answer to that question...if you look at people buying tablets today, particularly in the iPad arena, there are people that have started out with PCs and very often still use PCs," he said.

Otellini continued. "And [the tablet is] a complimentary device. How that unfolds 2, 3 years from now, I don't think anyone knows."

Actually we have a pretty good idea how that's unfolding right now. The iPad and other tablets are seeing sharp growth versus anemic PC growth.

And the future? IDC said last month that there will be a "dramatic shift" between 2011 and 2016, with the "once-dominant" Windows-Intel (aka, x86) PCs dropping from a market-dominating 35.9 percent share in 2011 to 25.1 percent in 2016."

Even with the prospect of Window 8 that's a pretty sobering forecast.

Quotes via Seeking Alpha