With Intel now kicking in $300 million to partner with PC makers on its ultrabook concept, one has to ask whether this purported revolution in mobile computing is on shaky ground. After all, representatives of several of the major computer companies could barely stifle a yawn when I've asked them (both pre- and post-$300,000,000) about their plans for, or enthusiasm about, the ultrabook category.
The basic pitch, not that it has been particularly clearly communicated by anyone to date, is this: We can already make a really thin laptop with decent battery life and a fast, power-efficient processor (as opposed to low-performance CULV chips, which led to modest battery life gains, but serious performance hits)--but these tend to start out expensive, and only go up from there. We also know how to make pretty decent midprice laptops, in the $600-$900 range, and that's a comfortable budget for many computer shoppers. What if, the ultrabook theory states, we could somehow make a thin, full-featured laptop, and also get the price down to that magic range everyone from small-business owners to students likes to shop in?
Sounds like a solid idea, but the R&D required for such a new category would be extensive, which is where the Intel investment comes in. But the problems go further than that. To be blunt, there are a lot of great, reasonably thin laptops already available in that price range (Acer's Timeline X, Toshiba's R835, Samsung's Series 3), and shaving a few tenths of an inch off them would not necessarily make a huge difference to most consumers. … Read more