LAS VEGAS—Ultrabook laptops will have all the ultra-extras consumers want, from touchscreens to built-in near field communications (NFC), DX11 graphics, voice recognition and smart-phone like preview panels, according to Intel's general manager of the PC client group.
Giving his firm's opening presentation at CES in Las Vegas on Monday (Jan. 9), Mooly Eden said Intel had over 75 Ultrabook design wins in the pipeline for 2012 alone, with advanced models sporting tablet-like features due out towards the end of the year.
"Consuming is good for cows, we are humans," Eden said, taking a stab at tablet usage models and proclaiming that while "touch" was important in contemporary devices, it had to also be paired with productivity features like a keyboard.
"The touchscreen skipped notebooks and came only to phones and tablets, but it won't skip Ultrabooks," Eden announced, showing off a plethora of touchscreen Ultrabook demos.
Initial user testing and focus groups have apparently shown people want touchscreens for certain things like picture viewing and editing, but that for true productivity, people did not want to give up a hard keyboard.
Mooly Eden, GM of Intel's PC Client group, showed off new bells and whistles coming to Ultrabooks at a pre-CES press conference.
For those wanting the best of both worlds, Eden showed off an innovative slider model, a hybrid Ultrabook/tablet able to elegantly flip back and forth between notebook and tablet format to suit the mood of its user.
Unlike previous clunky hybrid tablet devices, the design was slim and took just seconds to adapt from one mode to another, with nifty pop-out ports at the back.
Another innovation from the Intel team—still in the conceptual phase—is the Nikiski quick preview panel for Ultrabooks, which promises to bring a smartphone-like rapid notification system to the PC, via a clear panel on the outside, allowing users to see incoming messages even while the computer was closed.
The quick notification panel would be based on the Windows 8 Metro UI, with notification "tiles" for users to open or dismiss.
Intel also announced a partnership with voice recognition company Nuance, in what many saw as a bid to capitalize on the overnight success of Apple's Siri.
Unfortunately, however, Intel's partnership with Nuance appears to be nothing more than a simple voice command function for Ultrabooks, rather than a true artificial intelligence driven system. Also, the lack of a demo led some analysts to believe the feature would not be appearing on Ultrabooks for quite some time in any meaningful way.
Another smartphone feature being integrated into future Ultrabooks is NFC, for quick, on-the-go mobile payments. Eden demoed just such a transaction, by tapping a credit card to an Ultrabook touchpad and showing a payment go through. Obviously, Intel is also making much of being able to secure such a platform adequately to protect against theft and fraud.
For those still waiting for Ivy Bridge, the 22-nm shrink of Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture, Eden said the chipset would be out in Ultrabooks later this year, providing a 20 percent performance improvement, as well as a 30 percent graphics improvement with DX11.
Acer announced its Ivy Bridge-based Aspire s5 Ultrabook on Sunday at CES.
Ivy Bridge will be followed by Haswell, which also purportedly improves 20 times on laptop idle time.
Making the Ultrabook a unified communications and computing makes sense. We shouldn't be carrying pagers, smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers when we travel. Managing the data between devices is much worse than having one integrated device (with a mute).
Do we really need notifications for email and such popping up on our ultrabook as well as our phone? I'd rather have my ultrabook not have to have connectivity up when it's closed to save power and simply rely on my phone to notify me of things like email even if I then choose to open the ultrabook to respond.
The gap of Intel's differentiation is narrowing.
The Ultrabook is the 2013 version of the Mac Air.
About the same time Intel's Atom has the same power dissipation as a high-end ARM multicore processor, the latter will have similar performance to Atom...then, no gap.
Nikiski quick preview panel for Ultrabooks sounds like a winner to me. So does Intel's partnership with voice recognition company Nuance. These two HMIs are a natural way to communicate and will add much to the Ultrabook experience, as long as Intel and its partners can execute beyond demos at CES.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.