Ultrabooks Are Getting Hot - and Will Stay That Way

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The move to ultrabooks - very small mobile devices that, despite their size, run full operating systems - are hot.

This week, HP said that it is introducing an ultrabook for business. The HP Folio 13, according to NewsFactor, weighs 3.3 pounds, has a 13.3-inch display, a back-lit webcam and uses Intel's Rapid Start Technology. The ultrabook, which will be introduced on Dec. 7, will sell for about $900.

Expect to see ultrabook growth accelerate. Mobile Dev and Design last week quoted IHS iSuppli predictions that the ultrabook category will represent 43 percent of global notebook shipments by 2015. The piece provides no percentage for next year, but says iSuppli expects it to hit 28 percent in 2013 and 38 percent the following year. The NewsFactor piece quoted an analyst from IDC, who suggested a raw number: 95 million units will ship annually by 2015.

Intel - which is credited with pioneering the ultrabook concept - will focus on touchscreen devices running Windows 8 during the next year, according to comments by Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini and related by Tom's Hardware. Otellini, speaking at the Intel Capital Global Summit in California, said Intel would like to see a price point of $699. That, it should be noted, is about $200 less than the price at which the HP device is pegged. The story notes that this is a bit futuristic, since Windows 8 won't reportedly be ready until next August. Engadget reports that near-field communications also will be added.

Anyway you slice it, there will be a lot of ultrabooks on the street very quickly. The category threatens to insert itself into the still-forming hierachy of mobile devices. The great increases in processing power and related technology are making a variety of attractive devices possible. Laptop magazine did a compare and contrast on four: the Asus UX31, the Lenovo U300s, the Toshiba Z835 and the Acer Aspire S3. It looked at the design, keypad, touchscreen display audio, ports, performance, SSD performance, boot and wake from sleep, battery life and value. In the final analysis, the Asus and Toshiba products scored the best. The piece is more important as an insight into the state of the product category than as a full assessment of these particular devices.

The ultrabooks have a good use case, according to my colleague, Rob Enderle. He wrote that they may be better productivity tools than the iPad at work:

Ultrabooks, in short, maintain their productivity advantage and are aggressively closing the price and battery-life gap, and that makes you wonder what will happen when the second generation and Windows 8 hit next year.

Anything doing that well against the iPad and tablet juggernaut demands attention. And, according to numbers from IDC, iSuppli and undoubtedly others, it is attention that will be paid.