Apple Supply Chain Forcing Ultrabook Competitors to Find Metal Alternatives
Apple's ability to throw around its massive cash horde and exercise some truly incredible purchasing power has forced MacBook Air competitors to find alternatives to metal for their ultrabook chassises.
Earlier this year Intel released guidelines to producing ultraportable laptops (ultrabooks), with a major part of the guidelines being a "unibody-based magnesium-aluminum chassis." To do this Apple and other producers depend on computer numerical control lathes (CNC). Apple has dibs on the two largest suppliers of the CNC lathes, Foxconn and Catcher. This has left other laptop makers frantically searching for an alternative chasis material.
So far the most promising alternative has been rapid-heat-cylce-molding-based fiberglass. It's less expensive than metal, and a light, moldable, resilient mixture of fiberglass and plastic. But, moving away to a new unproven material will be risky especially with the traditionally nitpicking IT community. Saving $100 on a laptop wont mean much if the device has a noticeably shorter life span.