SAN FRANCISCO--Intel Corp. has been pushing the concept of “Ultrabook” PCs for almost a year, but to date, only four PC OEMs have introduced the thinner, lighter, sleeker notebooks to market.
Several more have announced future devices based on Intel’s reference design, but whether the devices will succeed in the market is still a hotly debated subject.
“The current Ultrabooks are nothing more than a slim and light-weight notebook, or should I say MacBook Air clones with a Windows operating system,” said In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor, claiming that the platform is far from revolutionary.
Instant-on capabilities, touch screens, new security features, all-day battery life and many other sleek features are mostly tied to the release of Windows 8 later next year, said McGregor, adding that this would also depend on Microsoft sticking to its schedule.
Intel, however, claims that while Windows 8 enables a good touch experience, it has very little to do with the near-term success of Ultrabooks and says it has over 60 design wins lined up for Ivy Bridge already that are not dependent on the operating system.
While some Ultrabook features may be new to traditional notebook models, McGregor said they are simply “evolutionary trends” already set in motion by other mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Ultabooks, he said, were simply further blurring the line between PCs and tablets, especially with the rise in popularity of detachable keyboards and the expectation of the Windows 8 operating system.
“The main difference between the tablet and Ultrabook platform will be software, consumer usage models, and/or purchasing and business models,” said McGregor, pointing out that while Intel drove the trademarked Ultrabook brand, it was nothing more than a rebrand of its previous ultra-thin branding exercise.
Taking his argument a step further, McGregor posits that the Ultrabook brand is simply not important to consumers.
“The concept of the slim notebook is just an evolution in mobile computing that is long overdue. The entire PC ecosystem has a history of trying to charge more for smaller devices rather than viewing the trend as a path to further growth,” he said.
Current economic circumstances and increased competition, however, have led the PC ecosystem to view the born-again Ultrabooks as a potential lifesaver.
“While the term lifesaver may seem rather extreme, it is fitting,” said McGregor, positing that the PC industry is feeling the crunch after losing its position as a magnet platform for applications, more critical in the minds of contemporary consumers.
Sources close to Intel have rejected McGregor's claims, however, noting that Ultrabooks don’t compete with tablets – that it is just netbooks that compete with tablets.