Ultrabooks Move Center Stage, but Doubts Persist

Carl Weinschenk

It can be difficult to keep all the new gadgets (or form factors, in industry parlance) straight as the worlds of telecommunications, consumer electronics and IT merge and grow.

One of the more interesting new devices is the ultrabook, which is being pushed by Intel. This PCMag piece looks at precisely what is in an ultrabook. The story, written by Michael Miller, begins by saying, essentially, that there is nothing new under the sun:

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The first thing to note is that there are, and have been, thin-and-light notebook computers for years. In some respects, all Intel is really doing is assigning a new name to a set of specifications that resolve around its latest processors and chipsets and launching a massive marketing campaign. Indeed, Intel introduced its first ultra-low-power CPU twelve years ago, and Ultrabook just refines the concept.

Miller then puts the devices squarely between tablets and laptops. Here are two more visions of what an ultrabook looks like - from Journyx CEO Curt Finch and Accent Computer Solutions' marketing manager, Courtney Kaufman.

The concept seems to make sense. However, at least one analyst - J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz - doesn't think that ultrabooks will have that big an impact - at least not yet. Yesterday, CNET reported that Moskowitz cited three reasons that ultrabooks are stalling: PC replacement cycles are lengthening, prices for the devices are too high and they aren't easily distinguishable from lower cost notebooks. Moskowitz does suggest that prices may come down and feature sets may improve after this year, however. A piece at InfoWorld reports that prices already have started coming down.

Some pretty powerful folks seem to be nervous about ultrabooks. Geek is one of several sites suggesting that Apple is flexing its muscle to keep the category down. Writes Will Shanklin:

Apparently Apple is none too happy about some of those Ultrabooks, and is willing to flex its supply chain muscle in order to do something about it. The company has reportedly pressured Taiwanese supplier Pegatron into dropping its production of the ASUS Zenbook, due to its striking similarities to the MacBook Air.

Ultrabooks will shake things up. Whether they are a new idea or a new twist on an old one is irrelevant. The important thing is whether or not they will find a receptive audience.

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