Next Up in the Innovation Derby: Intel's Ultrabook

Carl Weinschenk
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Promising New Tablets

New tablets that are looking to compete with the iPad.

The public's love of doing complex computing from wherever they are is driving an extraordinarily fast evolution of mobile devices at the chip, software and form-factor levels.

The task facing computer makers in what increasingly is being called the "post-PC era" is to replicate desktop functionality in thin, sleek and attractive packages that offer long battery life. In addition, the hardware and software called on to do this must use - at least eventually - the same operating system as smartphones, the other great thread of mobility. The best example of the trend toward a master mobile OS is Google's Ice Cream Sandwich, which is the code name for an Android OS that will bridge the gap between smartphones and tablets.

How this all works out is central to the future of a very large number of companies. The usual suspects in the competition include the Apple iPad and Android-powered tablets. A newer concept is the Chromebook, an entry from Google featuring the offloading of most tasks to the Web. It is, in essence, a portable browser with display capabilities.

Another new approach was announced in the spring and introduced this week at the Intel Developer Forum. The Intel Ultrabook will be made, according to CNET Asia, by Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. The innovation is in the form factor, which is a cross between a laptop and a tablet. This is how eWeek describes it:

Intel executives see ultrabooks as very thin and light laptops that offer many of the features of tablets-from long battery life to instant-on capabilities-and the advantages of traditional notebooks around such areas as productivity and compatibility with other systems.

That's a tall order that will rely to a great extent on the processor and chip architecture that Intel will use. The CNET Asia story reports that the device will use Intel's Ivy Bridge processor, which is supported by the tri-gate technology. It is said to lower power consumption by as much as 37 percent. Intel's chip evolution, and how the Ultrabook fits in, is a complex topic. EE Times offers a good description.

How the precise lines of competition break down is anyone's guess. The Ultrabook could compete most directly with the Chromebook or, as the International Business Times suggests, the iPad or MacBook Air. Regardless, the bottom line is that there is almost certainly an unprecedented level of innovation now in the mobile sector. The final result will be that just about everyone will be able to get what they want - and probably at a good price.

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