Sales of ultrabooks are helping to prop up an ailing Windows notebook market, accounting for almost 11 percent of retail sales over $700 in the first five months of 2012. According to figures released yesterday by research firm NPD, Intel's popular form factor helped the $700-$900 bracket sustain a relatively modest drop of three percent and pushed the $900+ bracket up a massive 39 percent from the same time last year. By contrast, the total market for Windows notebooks — including low-end budget machines and high-end mobile workstations — fell 17 percent.

Ultrabook sales as a share of the overall $700+ category seem to be growing at a relatively steady pace, as shown in the NPD chart below. But while cannibalizing the existing Windows notebook market is all very well, the devices still face significant competition in the form of Apple's recently-refreshed 13-inch MacBook Air, the indisputable leader in the space.

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