Ultraportables, Intel and Shades of Gray in the Mobile Landscape

Carl Weinschenk
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Even folks whose job it is to follow the ebb and flow of mobile gadgets - or those who do so because they enjoy it - must at some point be hard-pressed to keep track of the various phylum, class, order, family, genus and species of devices that are out there. It also is important to remember that while it takes nature millions of years to shift things around, device vendors just need a development cycle or two.

ZDNet's Sean Portnoy opens a post about Intel's support of its coming Ultrabook platform with the observation that the only ultraportable that has been successful is the MacBook Air. The piece lays out a landscape - based on linked-to reporting at DigiTimes - in which Intel is "lavishing resources on securing top-tier support for Ultrabooks, which Intel hopes will comprise 40 percent of the consumer notebook market by the end of 2012."

Though there are ultraportables available from a variety of vendors, Intel seems caught in a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. Portnoy writes that vendors are not falling over themselves to comply until they see some success:

Throwing gobs of marketing money toward notebook makers isn't necessarily spurring them into frantic activity, however, as many tell DigiTimes they are still waiting to see how the UX21 sells before fully jumping on-board.

At the highest level, there are two issues:

  • Do ultraportables have a viable market niche?
  • If so, is it possible to distinguish them enough in such a complex environment to actually reach those who may be interested - i.e., that market - with the appropriate marketing and sales messages?

An even further spin on the ultraportable message is the Chromebook, which seems like an ultraportable that, as the name implies, is deeply tied to Google's Chrome environment. A team of computer archeologists can determine whether or not the Chromebook is an ultraportable or occupies its own branch on the electronic family tree.

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