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Samsung to take on Apple's MacBooks in bid for notebook dominance

Consumer electronics maker Samsung has voiced its goal of becoming the No. 1 notebook maker, but it will run up against rival Apple and its hot-selling MacBook lineup on its way to the top.

After enjoying success in the smart TV and smartphone segments, South Korea's Samsung says it is bringing its attention to bear on conquering the notebook market.

"The strategic position of the notebook product line has become increasingly important to the overall product mix of Samsung Electronics, and the company's ultimate goal is to capture the top-ranking title in the segment, according to the company's executive vice president Gregory Lee," DigiTimes reported on Friday.

The company took the wraps off of several new notebook models at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev., this week in an effort to capture the market. At the show, it showed off a new Series 5 ultrabook, as well as a Series 9 laptop billed as the "world's thinnest notebook." The new models are due out in Asia later this quarter.

Samsung is also working with Google on a ChromeOS-powered netbook initiative.

But, the South Korean company will face heated competition from Apple, which has seen repeated successes with its MacBook portables, most recently with its revamped MacBook Air. According to one report earlier this week, the Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker sold 1.2 million MacBook Airs in the December quarter, up 200,000 units from the third quarter of calendar 2011.

Apple has benefitted from the fact that its MacBook Airs don't use hard-disk drives, which have recently been in short supply because of flooding in Thailand. Notebooks have become an increasingly important part of Apple's Mac product line, comprising 74 percent of all Mac sales last quarter.

Intel released its ultrabook design specification last year as a response to the success of Apple's thin-and-light MacBook Air. The chipmaker is aiming to push ultrabooks to a 40 percent share of the consumer laptop market by the end of 2012, but analysts at Gartner noted on Wednesday that ultrabooks failed to gain traction when they arrived last fall.

Apple was the only company among the top five PC vendors in the U.S. to grow shipments last quarter. It saw 20.7 percent growth, compared to a dismal 26.1 percent decline in shipments from top PC maker HP. For its part, Samsung did not appear on either of Gartner's top five PC vendor lists for the global or U.S. markets.

As for smartphones, Samsung has risen to prominence with its line of smartphones in just a few years, claiming the top spot from Apple and Nokia in the third quarter of 2011. However, Apple has alleged in several lawsuits that Samsung's success is based on "slavish" copying of its iPhone designs.

Samsung reported record profits when it announced its preliminary quarterly results last week, driven largely by one-off gains and strong smartphone sales. Though the company has ceased reporting smartphone shipment numbers, one analyst estimated that the company sold 32 million smartphones in the fourth quarter. That would put it in a close race with Apple, as analyst estimates for iPhone sales range from 25 million to 36 million units, according to one poll.