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Apple hogging all the laptop aluminum, competitors turn to fiberglass

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Say what you want about Apple, but it’s clever. The company helped pioneer the use of aluminum laptop shells in its MacBooks back in 2008. Now that superthin, Mac-like Ultrabooks are becoming the trend, the rest of the industry needs a strong, lightweight substance like aluminum to build the .8-inch thick designs Intel is pushing for. Problem is, Apple has secured a majority of the aluminum and the factories that manufacture it for computing.

DigiTimes reports that Apple already has deals with Catcher Technology and Foxcomm Technology that give it access to a healthy portion of the metal and production capacity for aluminum chassis. Other manufacturers hoping to build will have to compete for the remaining capacity at the two companies. 

This move is similar to Apple’s big buyout of iPad-sized touch panels last year, which caused a delay in competing tablets and is the main reason why only HP has been able to create a 9.7-inch tablet. But hey, more power to them. If Apple is willing to gamble big and buy out huge quantities of components to ensure it can compete on price, then it should do just that. The rest of the industry seems to be following in its footsteps lately, and if you’re not taking the risk, you can’t get all the reward either. Apple’s low prices are its reward for investing intelligently.

So what is the rest of the industry to do? Well, it looks like they’re looking at other materials like fiberglass. It turns out that the cost of a fiberglass laptop computer shell may be up to $20 cheaper than aluminum at $50-$100 per unit. Unfortunately, the major player in this space, Mitac Precision, is currently at 90 percent production capacity. Looks like laptop makers will have to get more creative if they hope to take on Apple with Ultrabooks. 

Jeffrey Van Camp
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Deputy Editor, Jeff helps oversee editorial operations at Digital Trends. Previously, he ran the site's…
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