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Ultrabook manufacturers look to plastic as Apple commandeers supplies

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Intel's new "Ultrabook" initiative designed to help PC manufacturers churn out MacBook Air clones has hit a snag. According to Digitimes, Apple has gobbled up almost all of the available capacity for producing unibody aluminum parts, which it uses to build the chassis for its notebooks. Production capacity for these parts is so constrained that PC manufacturers are reportedly only able to produce one chassis every three hours.

In order to maximize production and cut costs, Ultrabook manufacturers are being forced to fall back on tried and true (and chintzy) production methods. High-end Ultrabooks will still have an all-aluminum chassis like Apple's notebooks, but the mid-range products will only feature aluminum on the outside; internally, it'll be plastic parts glued to metal. Low-end Ultrabooks designed to get under that magic $999 price barrier will be constructed from high-density fiberglass. Sounds charming.

Stories like this certainly show how the tables have turned in the past ten years. Today, PC vendors who try to compete with Apple on both features and price almost inevitably find they have to sacrifice one or the other. Ultrabooks are no exception; Apple's supply-side savvy has allowed it to lock up a significant portion of manufacturing resources, leaving less and less for the rest of the industry.

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