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Technology Futures

Commentaries on Directions That Will Impact the Future of Technology

Archive for the tag “forecasts”

The Personal Cloud: Truth or Dare?


Analysts love to coin new expressions.  The one I’m most proud of is “Business Intelligence,” which I thought was a lot sexier than “data mining” and “data warehousing,” two earlier expressions which meant essentially the same thing.   IBM and a couple of other big companies jumped on the Business Intelligence bandwagon and made it an IT proverb.  I shoulda copyrighted or trademarked it, or started a domain business-intelligence .com.  Mighta made a few bucks.  Water under the dam.

I was impressed the other day when I saw a reference to the “Personal Cloud.”  This expression is claimed by Gartner Group, possibly the world’s largest techy analyst company, and mentioned prominently in a recent press release entitled “Gartner Says the Personal Cloud Will Replace the Personal Computer as the Center of Users’ Digital Lives by 2014.”  (Unfortunately, personalcloud.com is already a registered domain name, indicating that Gartner isn’t any smarter than I was.)

In any event, I read the press release.  I thought it made sense -sort of.  Do you agree with the following quote?

“Gartner analysts said the personal cloud will begin a new era that will provide users with a new level of flexibility with the devices they use for daily activities, while leveraging the strengths of each device, ultimately enabling new levels of user satisfaction and productivity. However, it will require enterprises to fundamentally rethink how they deliver applications and services to users.”

The 46-word opening sentence aside (my composition professor would have slammed that writer), I agree that users will  potentially be more productive using the cloud, but I’m having a tough time with the prediction that enterprises will have to rethink how they deliver services to users.  In my experience, enterprises seldom rethink anything.  Rather, they change as little as possible so as not to freak out those users and make more work for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the cloud is terrific.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the timeshare business of the late 60s – early 90s essentially offered cloud computing, but, in those days, networks were slow and storage capacity limited.  Today’s broadband networks and virtually unlimited random access storage enable a user to do almost anything online instead of the desktop.  The only real barrier to cloud computing is security, an issue that I believe will never get resolved.

If you are skeptical about the cloud, I’d like you to test out an app called Dropbox, a web-based file hosting service.  You can get a free single-user account or an account that can be shared by several users.  The learning curve is practically non-existent.  It’s a great example of cloud storage.

You can also try some cloud apps.  If you use Google’s gmail or calendar, you are already apping in the cloud!  Others you can try for free are Quicken Online, WordPress (blogging service that I am using right now), and Adobe Photoshop Express.  Check out this website, “10 cloud apps that slam-dunk their desktop counterparts.”

Of course, these personal apps have little to do with enterprise applications, but will certainly give you a taste of the possible.

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Tablets: Is the Enterprise a New Frontier?


Windows 8 Libraires Concept

Windows 8 (Photo credit: louisvolant)

Everybody knows that Tablets are becoming more or less ubiquitous.  The great majority of them, however, are being bought for playing games, web browsing, mapping, watching movies and TV shows, video telephony and other personal pursuits.  The buzz now is for the tablet to become an important device for businesses, known in the trade as “enterprises.”

Not long ago, I was on an airplane, seated next to a youngish man who had an iPad with him.  We struck up a conversation, and I learned that he was an electronics engineer who worked for a leading Silicon Valley company.  He was effusive about his iPad, but, when I asked him what he used it for, he said “mostly I play Scrabble!”  I think most tablet owners would have a similar response.

That said, the time has come for the tablet to become an important tool for businesses.  There are some new driving forces that will make that happen.  One of them will be the appearance of Windows 8, scheduled for release later this year.  Why is that important given the tremendous lead of iOS and Android?  Because you will be able to run existing Windows applications.  Since Windows-based apps are at the core of most business IT operations, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the benefits.

Coming from a different direction, wireless carrier Verizon announced a new enterprise initiative it calls Blank Slate.  The plan is to deliver a tablet without the usual pre-installed settings and apps.  Instead, the tablet will be set up with customized software and/or hardware that are optimized for specific industry applications.  In addition, there will be a private app storefront which will enable an employee to access company proprietary applications.  Although the program will start with Android, one can presume Windows 8 will follow.

Recently, Meg Whitman, HP’s new CEO, indicated that HP will be back in the mobile platform business, but, instead of trying to complete with Apple and Google for consumers, the focus would be on the enterprise where HP is strong.  Up until the other day, she was talking up Open WebOS, HP’s open sourced mobile operating system, but, now is talking Windows as the most likely candidate.

I conclude that the enterprise tablet business will be a really big deal in a couple of years, given the muscle of companies like Microsoft, HP and Verizon.  If you watch the various CSI TV shows, you would know that law enforcement couldn’t operate without them. (Chuckle)

 

5G Wifi: Will You Use It?


11ac Coverage

WiFi at home, Wifi on your phone, Wifi on your tablet, Wifi at Starbucks, here a wi, there a wi, everywhere a wifi – or so the song goes.  This year, the next generation of Wifi, known as 11ac or 5G WiFi (5G = Fifth Generation), is going to hit the market.  Never mind that the relevant standards body (i.e., the Wifi Alliance) is two years away from actually defining a standard, companies like Broadcom that make chips for Wifi , are already in 11ac production.

The current and latest real Wifi standard is 802.11n.  11ac (full name is 802.11ac) will offer much wider bandwidth, longer range, more reliability and better battery life.  The icing on the cake is that 11ac won’t cost much more than 11n!  Maybe even the same price.

Broadcom, the first big company to announce 11ac product, is making 11ac chips in at least three bandwidths:  433 Mbps, 867 Mbps and 1.3 Gbps.  The chart above, from 5Gwifi.org, shows what the average user can expect performance-wise from 11ac.  Even, the low-end implementation is three times faster than 11n.

One of the more interesting 11ac efforts comes from a small company you probably don’t know, called Redpine Signals of San Jose, CA.  It’s implementation focuses on low-power devices, and so is suitable for smartphones and tablets.  While it isn’t clear that phones really benefit from 11ac, tablets certainly will, especially if used for viewing HD movies.  Redpine calls its technology Quali-Fi.

11ac will likely have it’s biggest impact in the home.  Wifi deadspots will be a thing of the past and families will be able to stream multiple movies over the same network.  Pretty cool!  The caveat here is that the broadband Internet connection may limit the technology’s usability.  If the Internet connection  provides only a few megabits per second, 11ac won’t offer much, if any advantage.

If you are an early adopter, you will be able to buy an 11ac router this year.  In fact, In-Stat forecasts that 1 million ac routers will be sold this year, growing to 350 million by 2015.  Eventually, all home routers will support 11ac.  However, it’s not clear which products will be the first  to incorporate 11ac WiFi since none of the consumer electronics and phone companies have announced product yet.

Nevertheless, if you have a fast Internet connection, you can look forward to much enhanced Wifi in your home, your office and even Starbucks!

The Paperless Society: Myth or Reality?


CBS syndicated columnist Dave Ross recently said “The best thing about the Internet is that there is no paper.  The worst thing about the Internet is that there is no paper.”  I think Mr. Ross has succinctly captured the essence of the dichotomy.

Several years ago, the Aetna Insurance Company hired IBM to do an extensive $3 million study with the objective of reducing paper handling throughout Aetna by 10%.  When the study was completed, and recommendations made, Aetna management rejected it, concluding that the trauma caused by doing things differently would cost the company far more than the anticipated savings!

In 2004, FedEx paid $2.4 Billion to acquire 1300 Kinko stores.  What services does Kinko (now called “FedEx Office“) provide?  Primarily printing and copying paper.  Kinko’s also provides shipping services.  What do they ship?  You guessed it, mostly documents.  Is FedEx nuts?  Probably not.

The US Post Office is on the ropes because its paper shipping business has declined to the point where the existing infrastructure is bigger than it needs to be.

The Kindle, the Nook and the iPAD have obviated the need to read books on paper.

Several years ago, I visited the Head of HP’s Workstation Division.  When I asked him how they were making any money given the current competitive situation, he replied:  “Every morning, before office hours, we all gather in the parking lot, face Boise, bow down and utter a prayer of thanks.”  If you didn’t already know it, Boise is the HQ of HP’s Printer Division!

The newspaper business is on its last legs, given that an increasing number of people get their news over the Internet or on TV.

Visit Costco, Staples, Office Max and Office Depot and see rows and rows of paper for sale:  Copy paper, printer paper, card stock, colored paper, envelopes, etc., etc.

Reading a Magazine in a Barber shop

Who among you men can imagine waiting in a barber shop reading Playboy on a tablet?  Who among you women can imagine reading Vogue on a tablet while waiting for your manicure.

Although paper consumption in North America has declined by 25% in recent years, demand is on the upswing due to improvement in the economy, the introduction of new products and huge growth from Asia, especially China.

Here are oft-repeated statements: “Finding specific information in a stack of paper can be time consuming and often frustrating. Finding specific information in digital data is quick and easy.”  My response to that is a big MAYBE.  The statements may be true IF the data has been organized efficiently and the reader knows the right keywords to search on.  But suppose you are reading a lengthy document and want to refer back to something you read earlier.  If you are sitting in front of screen, how easy is it to do that?  Often, it is much faster to riffle through the pages of a paper document than to do a computer search where you might not even remember searchable keywords.

So what is one to make out of these seemingly contradictory observations?  I think it is safe to say that paper and electrons will coexist for a very long time.  Paper will be replaced where it makes sense, and used where it makes sense.

According to ecology.com, each person in the United States uses 749 pounds of paper per year!  (Yes, that includes toilet paper).  We are not going to see that consumption decline significantly for a very long time.

Voice Input: Mind Over Matter?


List of The Big Bang Theory episodes (season 2)

Image via Wikipedia

A few nights ago, I happened to watch an episode of the TV comedy show “Big Bang Theory,” in which one of the lead characters carries on conversations with “Siri.”  For example:

Character (speaking with an Indian accent):  “Hello”

Siri (speaking with a sexy woman’s voice):  “Hello”

Character:  “What’s your name?”

Siri: “My name is Siri.”

Character: Are you single?”

Siri: “I don’t have a marital status.”

Character:  “How about a cup of coffee?”

Siri: “I found 6 coffee shops, 3 of them near you.”

Another example, this one truer to life, was the Jeopardy contest between IBM‘s Watson supercomputer and the show’s most successful contestants.  Questions were asked by host Alex Trebek and Watson’s answers were given in a staccato-sounding computer-generated English.

Speech recognition and speech synthesis are technologies that have been studied and under development for a long time.  IBM was one of the pioneers of this research, and the company continues to pursue it in labs all over the world.  IBM groups various voice-related technologies under the umbrella phrase Human Language Technologies.  Clicking on this link will bring up a page that will direct you to a layman’s overview of IBM’s many research projects, patents and related information.

There are two main parts to the speech field as it relates to computers:  Speech Recognition and Speech Synthesis.  Beyond that, subsidiary technologies include Speech-to-Text, Natural Language-to-Formal Language Translation, Speaker Recognition and Speaker Verification.  Besides IBM, other major companies including Microsoft and Google are investing in speech-related research.  DARPA (Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency) is particularly interested in recognizing speech in noisy environments, and has funded research in this field for 40 years through SRI International’s Artificial Intelligence Center.  That research formed the basis for the aforementioned Siri.  Nuance, the company known for its “Dragon” speech recognition software for PCs, does its own research and collaborates with IBM.  Nuance licenses its technology to Apple.

It is difficult to pinpoint the level of investment in speech-related technologies, but with big companies and government agencies heavily involved, together with push from the hugely competitive mobile market, we will see continuing investment and great accomplishment in the years to come

Eventually, these technologies will lead to nothing short of a computing revolution.  Chuck the keyboard, the mouse and the pad.  We were all born with the I/O of the future.

 

 

Social Media: The End of Conventional Market Research?


A New Market Analysis Methodology

I just finished reading about a San Francisco startup called Topsy Labs.  This company searches posts on social media websites and uses this information to detect forthcoming trends.  For example, it picked up a lot of tweets from people who said they were cancelling their Netflix subscriptions and used that information to predict a drop in Netflix’ stock price.  There are other new companies doing similar work, for example, WiseWindow and Derwent Capital Markets, a London-based boutique investment company running a hedge fund.

The work of these companies is based on sentiment analysis in which the chatter on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media is analyzed and used to predict stock movement, market trends, product acceptance, competition and other factors that is the purview of classical market research.  It is a bit early to predict the demise of classical market research, but it will certainly be impacted in a significant way.

Will the Statistics Texts be Rewritten?

I spent more than 30 years working for market-research based companies.  We were called “industry analysts”.  Setting aside things like focus groups, the principal data-gathering MO of such companies is interviewing.  We did face-to-face interviews, phone interviews and online surveys interviews.  We tried to do enough of them to be “statistically significant.”  (It turns out that the statistics books state that 50 interviews of a homogeneous population will produce results with ±10% accuracy with 90% confidence.).  Nonetheless, obtaining 50 great interviews wasn’t easy and was very expensive.

Real-time Twitter sentiment

Realtime Twitter Sentiment

I don’t know what the sentiment analysis companies are charging or going to charge for their services, but, since the process is highly automated, it could be relatively inexpensive.  In fact, it could ultimately put the market research firms out of business or force them to change their their existing business models.  In reply, representatives from those firms are touting the limitations of sentiment analysis, but the quotes I’ve seen aren’t very convincing.

Conclusion:  Sentiment Analysis and Spin-offs Will Have a Huge Impact

In conclusion, I predict that data gathering by scanning social media and other web-based information will have a huge impact on the way market research will be done in the future, and will provide a precision unmatched by conventional techniques.

Home Audio Speakers: What’s Hot? What’s Not?


Bozak Concert Grand

The picture on the left shows the Bozak Concert Grand Speaker System.  Invented by audio pioneer Rudy Bozak and sold from 1951 – 1965, The Concert Grand was universally considered by almost every reviewer as the finest production speaker system available.  Weighing 250 pounds and costing more than $2000 (About $20,000 in 2011 dollars), each unit contained four 12″ woofers, two midrange drivers and an array of eight tweeters contained in a gigantic box that was close to an infinite baffle enclosure.  If you wanted to hear (feel) the lowest note on a bass viol, the Concert Grand was, arguably, the only system capable of producing those notes distortion-free.  Short of very costly custom-built systems, no modern technology has been able to sound as sweet as the Concert Grand in my less-than-humble opinion.  Unfortunately, the Concert Grand demanded a) vast wealth; b) an extremely understanding spouse; and c) a very large room, thus narrowing the market to the point at which the Bozak company could not sell enough to make a profit.

Since those heady “HiFi” days, speaker designers have developed hundreds of systems based on technologies, both esoteric and simple.  The speaker designer’s job today is complicated by the need to reproduce both music and movie sounds.  Crashing automobiles heard through 6 channels and the strains of Beethoven heard through 2 stereo channels require very different aural profiles.  Further, most music content these days is digitally-sourced and digital music sounds a lot different than analog-sourced music.  (Although, if you are young enough, you may never have heard analog music, and therefore don’t know the difference!)  In short, except for a diminishing number of audiophiles, the Concert Grand and its brethren are no longer hot.

Hot speakers today are likely to be a) small; and b) wireless.  Small means that infinite baffles are out, and enclosures tiny or non-existent.  To make up for that deficit, designers compensate by using the aforementioned electronic trickery, employing sound modifier circuitry that attempts to create realism.  Sometimes the trickery is built into the amplification system and sometimes in electronics that are embedded into the speaker equipment.  Bose pioneered this methodology with great success.  (Although I will admit that some Bose systems sound very good, they still ain’t Concert Grands.)

Typical Sound Bar

The technology has progressed to the point where much sound processing circuitry has reached commodity status, enabling speaker and amplifier manufacturers to offer a range of sound processing options at low cost.  An outstanding example is the so-called sound bar.  A sound bar is a  collection of speakers and sound processing electronics housed in a narrow long cabinet designed to fit under or over a TV set.  The electronics often try to emulate surround sound.  Since the speakers are very small, a separate subwoofer is usually needed to get decent bass response.  Sound bars typically sell from $150 to $1500.  A few years ago, the Polk Audio company was the only producer of sound bars.  Today, virtually every speaker supplier is in the sound bar business.  Put them in the very hot category.

Another hot category are speaker systems with tiny satellite speakers.

Typical Satellite Speaker System

Pioneered by Bose under the trademark “Acoustimass”, these systems consist of a subwoofer and 2-7 little satellite speakers usually coupled with electronics that strive to make the sound realistic.  Prices for satellite systems range from $100 to $2000.  Spouses tend to like them because they are inobtrusive.

Typical Tower Speaker

The person who would have bought a Concert Grand 50 years ago, can get some very hot speakers that offer great sound in large rooms.  The most common form factor for these high-end speakers is the so-called “tower.”  They look like skinny Concert Grands and usually have several speakers contained in a single enclosure.  They may or may not include sound processing electronics.  You can expect to pay from $300 to $2000 per enclosure for tower systems, so a multichannel setup can set you back  big bucks.

I mentioned before that wireless systems are hot.  That means that the audio signal can be sent from its source to speakers using either an Internet-based network or a proprietary wireless scheme.  This eliminates the need for wires and makes it easy to play music sourced in one room to speakers located in another room.  Unfortunately, wireless transmission quality is not as good – yet – as wired transmission, so, if you want high-end sound, you are still stuck with wires.

I close this article with mention of an item that is semi-hot.  That is, the high-end DAC (Digital -to-Analog Converter).  Audiophiles will tell you that analog music beats digital music hands down.  That is why many DJs use vinyl records rather than CDs, and why vinyl media is actually on the increase.  Neilsen Soundscan recently reported that, while overall album sales dropped 13% in 2010, sales of vinyl increased by 14 percent over the previous year, a new record.  These DACs take digital input from a CD/DVD player (for example) through a Toslink or Digital Coax connection and output analog sound to the system receiver or amplifier.  Very cool, indeed!

PS Audio Digital Link III DAC

The Home Entertainment System Myth


I enjoy David Einstein’s weekly syndicated column in which he dispenses advice to anyone who writes in with a techie question.  This week a lady wrote in stating that she had bough a “3D Smart TV”, a Blu-ray disc player and a 3D Blu-ray version of Cars 2.  After setting everything up, she found that she couldn’t watch Cars 2 in 3D!  She wanted to know why, since she thought she bought those components so that her daughter could watch Cars 2 in 3D.  I bet I can guess who the retailer was that sold her that stuff.

David (not so nicely) told her that she would need a 3D player to play a 3D disc.  He then went on to explain that Cars 2 was available on an on-demand cable in 3D and that would play into her 3D TV.  He also gave her a few other options, that I’m sure the retailer never thought of mentioning.

This squib is a great example of how the home entertainment industry has failed at every level – developer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer – to educate the average consumer.  This is great news for the folks who attend CEDIA, the international trade association for companies who design and install electronic systems for the home.   These folks make a living off the consumer’s lack of knowledge.  If you are not a technical person and want a multi-component system to do what you want (e.g., play that 3D disc) by pressing a single button, you need to hire one of these CEDIA guys.    Since the CEDIA guys charge a lot, most people don’t hire them.  Without them, the chances are pretty good that you will a) buy the wrong stuff; b) pay too much for it; and c) use what you bought up to about 20% of its potential.

This state of affairs has been going on for many years, and I simply don’t understand it.   All of the technology that is needed to make a home entertainment system “plug and play” has been available for years, yet no company has addressed the issue, although many purport to do so.  Several years ago, I wrote Steve Jobs a letter explaining how certain technologies that Apple had or was working on could address this problem, and, in the process, make Apple a lot of money.  In reply, I got a sharply-worded letter from a lawyer stating that Apple had a firm policy of rejecting any ideas from anyone not an employee of the company, and I was cordially invited to mind my own business.  (I thought about sending a similar missive to Bill Gates, but figured Microsoft would probably be even nastier than Apple.)

If you have a chance, attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this coming January.  Companies like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Microsoft, etc. have booths measuring tens of thousands of square feet pushing thousands of products, but you won’t find much that tells the consumer how to integrate these products or even allude to ease-of use.  The words are there in the hype, but none of these companies deliver a solution.

There is a place out there for a mass-market systems integrator.  The revenue potential is massive.  Why nobody has seized the opportunity remains one of the great mysteries.  For most people, a home entertainment SYSTEM is a myth.

Grouse, grouse, grouse . . . . .

Are We Headed to Subscription-based Cloud Computing?


This week, an Adobe exec demonstrated a suite of cloud-based applications designed to run with a touch interface.  Adobe calls it the “Creative Cloud.”  Its strategy is to change from selling software in the box to selling software on a monthly subscription basis.  The exec said that Adobe expects half its sales to be subscription-based by 2015.

I’m a big proponent of subscriptions.  It doesn’t matter if it is a magazine or a renewable lease on a $100 million jet plane.  Customers tend to renew subscriptions without giving the process a lot of thought.  Thus subscriptions tend to guarantee an ongoing revenue stream without a lot of extra sales effort.  Most sales managers will tell you that it costs 4-5 times as much to get a new customer than it does to renew an old one.  One only has to look at the example set by Netflix to see what kind of success can be engendered by the subscription business model.

The touch interface will be a big driver for cloud-based software.  Cloud computing means that any device can easily connect to software or services, and that certainly includes tablets and phones, which are essentially touch-interface devices.  Further, there is a lot more touch-based technology coming.  If you haven’t seen the TV shows Hawaii Five-O, NCIS: LA or John King’s show on CNN, watch an episode or two just to see what gigenormous touch screens can bring to the party.  Also, Google “huge touch screens”.  You’ll find dozens of YouTube and other videos showing off these devices.

Finally, there is the reliability factor to consider.  A few minutes ago, while I was typing this blog entry, my computer inexplicably crashed – naturally, right before it was almost finished.  I had to copy the contents by hand, reboot my computer and re-enter the article.  Grrrrrr………………….    If I were in the Cloud, maybe I wouldn’t have to put up with that c–p.  I would happily pay a (reasonable) monthly subscription fee if I could be sure that I’d never again have to deal with another crash.

In addition, subscriptions could eliminate some cheaters.  I know a person who buys the latest version of a software package from Costco every year.  He installs it on his computer, registers it with the manufacturer and then returns it to Costco, taking advantage of Costco’s generous return policy!  Although I’m no expert on the subject, it seems to me that a lot of software piracy could be eliminated or at lest curtailed if one had to have a subscription, and the software was available only in the cloud.

In conclusion, I believe that subscription-based computing in the cloud will be a big deal, and that it will happen fast, certainly within the next five years.

 

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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