By Maximilian Clarke

Ultrabooks appear set to dominate this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with as many as 50 of the devices expected to be unveiled, Canalys predict.

Opening the charge in what is expected to the year of the Ultrabook is Acer, who this weekend unveiled a 15mm pancake - thinner than Apple’s market shaping Macbook Air.

“Ultrabooks show some much needed, and long overdue, innovation in the notebook market and will pose a new threat to premium pads,” said Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling. “With increased battery life and portability, the continued development of the Ultrabook will bring some of the features that consumers love about pads to the notebook space.”

Pads are expected to take a back seat to Ultrabooks at this year’s show, as most of the pads shown last year either failed commercially or did not even launch.

“The two leading pad vendors in the US market in Q4 2011, Apple and Amazon, won’t be present, but we expect many refreshes of devices shown last year,” said Coulling. “Pad sales are currently concentrated in mature markets, where many consumers will continue to add pads to their collections of electronics products in 2012. We expect to see plenty of demonstrations of how the pad can interact with other products, especially in the living room - the new pad battleground.”

The drive towards ever more mobile computing is a trend that can be seen throughout the world. Canalys estimates that from the beginning of 2010 to the end of October 2011, nearly 54 million pads shipped and, by the end of last year, over 772 million smart phones were in use around the world.

Smartphones will further encroach on basic and feature phone shipments in 2012, especially in growth markets such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and more recently in Africa.

“There is an appetite for smart phones among the young connected populations in these potentially massive markets,” said Canalys Principal Analyst Pete Cunningham. “Most vendors will wait until Mobile World Congress 2012 in February to reveal new smart phones; CES will therefore give some welcome attention and headlines to Microsoft and Nokia.”

The influx of smart phones and pads into the market creates a new challenge for consumers and device vendors alike.

“Consumers want their content safe and backed-up, while being able to access it from any device — whatever the platform or operating system — and they want to be able to extend that access to selected other people as well,” said Canalys Vice President and Principal Analyst Chris Jones. “ At last year’s CES, we saw the trend towards content distribution and content access across multiple screens — phone, pad, notebook/desktop, TV, car, etc. — start to build. We not only expect much more development in these areas at this year’s show, but also an increase in multiple mobile and personal cloud solutions from traditional and new players to help consumers organize and secure their content.”

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