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Technology Futures

Commentaries on Directions That Will Impact the Future of Technology

Is an Ultrabook in Your Future?


The latest entry into the universe of personal computing goes by the moniker “Ultrabook.”  “What the heck is that?” you may well ask.  In
a nutshell, an Ultrabook is a skinny laptop computer that meets guidelines laid down by Intel Corporation.   Those guidelines include <21 mm thick (.83inches), a solid state “hard drive”, a minimum 5 hours battery life, an Intel “ultra low voltage” Core-I processor, Intel Rapid Start technology and Intel’s Anti-theft and ID protection technologies.  Computers that meet these guidelines are about to hit the shelves this quarter; first from Lenovo, Asus, Acer and Toshiba to be followed by other big name PC companies like HP and Dell.  If you would like to
see how the early models stack up, go to http://asia.cnet.com/which-ultrabook-should-you-get-62211773.htm.

Ultrabooks are obviously inspired by the “MacBook Air” that was introduced nearly three years ago.  It is now an established product line, and Apple expects to sell nearly 3 million of them this year at prices ranging from $1,000 – $2,000.  While not specifically meeting Intel’s
Ultrabook guidelines, the MacBook Air uses Intel processors and defacto meets those guidelines in many respects.

Ultrabook wannabees hope to take a big bite out of the space that Apple has had to itself for the better part of three years.  Their success (or lack thereof) will undoubtedly boil down to price.  Initial Ultrabook prices will start near $1,000 – same as a low-end MacBook Air – but the
industry is projecting a $600-700 price point within 6-12 months, which would be a significant price advantage over Apple.

In addition, the plan is to equip Ultrabooks with touch-screens running Windows 8.  Personally, I don’t see much of a benefit to having a touch screen on a laptop, except for some specialized applications.  One buys a laptop because it has a keyboard and mouse-equivalent.  I dunno, maybe it will turn on the gamers, but for anything involving text and/or data, gimme a keyboard and a mouse with a scrollwheel.

The “Netbook” is almost a forgotten category.  It has in common with an Ultrabook light weight, small size, and a keyboard.  It is also cheap.  A brand-new loaded 10” model with standard (not starter-edition) Windows 7 can be had for $250, while a used one can be found for $100.  In the traditional laptop market, $500 will get you a new machine from a major vendor running Windows 7 Professional with a 15.6” screen, 320GB drive and a DVD burner.  If you are willing to buy used or refurbished, you can get something similar for $200.  Of course, if you don’t need a keyboard, a tablet will probably do you fine.  You can pick up a good one today for less than $350, and, if you need it, some models
offer a docking station that will accommodate a keyboard and mouse, large display and provide connectivity for most peripherals.

In conclusion, I believe there are only two compelling reason to buy an Ultrabook:  1) sex appeal; and 2)  a 5-pound laptop is too
heavy to carry.  Note that weight aside, an Ultrabook still requires the same size carrying case as a laptop.

That said, I never underestimate the power of a well-financed PR campaign, and Intel/Microsoft and their customers will be spending billions to convince you that you can’t survive without an Ultrabook.  Too early to tell if it will go the way of the Edsel or change the nature of the computing landscape.

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One thought on “Is an Ultrabook in Your Future?

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