Notebook players may have just pulled an old negotiation tactic on Intel, and won. Here's what went down. According to reports, notebook makers sought out the Santa Clara chip maker and demanded that it cut Ultrabook CPU prices in half. That sounds like an absurd demand, but rather then tell its partners to jump off a bridge, Intel countered with a 20 percent discount for first-tier notebook players.
Intel's pumped about its Ultrabook concept. How pumped? So pumped that earlier this week, the company created a $300 million fund to help spur on the development of the powerful, low weight, long lasting laptops. The companies that are actually making the Ultrabooks, though, are apparently a little less enthused. You see, Intel wants companies to sell Ultrabooks for less than $1,000 – probably to make them competitive with the MacBook Air. That number's making a few manufacturers shift uneasily in their seats.
Tablets will be the death of the computer! Just ask the armchair pundits spouting their visions of PC doom over the Web on a daily basis. Here at Maximum PC, we're a little skeptical of that view – how do you shove a 12-inch long XFX Radeon HD 6990 into a tablet? – but the rise of mobile devices has made the future of laptops a little iffy. Intel, along with manufacturers like Asus, are fighting back with thin, powerful notebooks called Ultrabooks. Intel's not fooling around, either. Today, the company announced the creation of a $300 million Ultrabook fund.
Thin and light notebooks inevitably draw comparisons to Apple's MacBook Air, and you can probably expect a lot more of that once Ultrabooks emerge, at least at first. Part of the reason probably has to do with there not being a ton of pancaked proportioned notebooks. Intel aims to change the mobile landscape with its Ultrabook concept, and it looks as though Acer is itching to get started.
Ultrabooks are turning out to be a test of metal, er, mettle for PC vendors. Conceived by Intel and expected to begin populating store shelves later this year, ultrabooks have among their defining characteristics: a full-voltage processor, a thickness cap of 0.8 inches, and a sub-$1,000 price tag. But, as PC vendors are fast learning, making an ultrabook is easier said than done.
We've been giving a fair amount of attention to Intel's Ultrabook concept, and if you've missed the coverage, the short and sweet of it is an Ultrabook is Intel's way of meshing the best parts of a tablet and an ultrathin notebook into a single device. Ultrabooks are designed to be thin, light, attractive, powerful, and full of features, and at least one talking head at Intel envisions Ultrabooks accounting for 40 percent of all notebooks by the end of 2012 (Intel as a whole is being a little more conservative). Where things get tricky is in the price. Intel wants Ultrabooks to cost consumers less than $1,000, and so far notebook vendors aren't hitting the mark. Can Intel's partners really sell Ultrabooks for under a grand?
Years ago a single- or double-speed CD-ROM drive without burning capabilities would set you back several hundred dollars. And today? A twenty-dollar bill buys you a high-speed DVD burner. Even Blu-ray drives aren't all that expensive anymore. Are optical drives on their way out? With ubiquitous broadband, streaming media, cloud storage, and digital downloads taking over, that could very well be the case, and it's already happening in the mobile world.
The x86 market isn’t in jeopardy by any stretch of the imagination, but Intel has seen the future, and mobile is where the moneys at. As tablets based on the arm architecture slowly evolve into convertible PC’s, Intel knows it will need to make laptops that are even more compelling if it’s going to survive the long haul. We know the Ultrabook is one of Intel’s most important strategies going forward, however in a blog post on Thursday they finally detailed the three year roadmap for what they believe is a completely new product segment, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Intel has big plans for its Ultrabook concept. These thin and light machines built around Intel's Ivy Bridge platform are supposed to combine the performance of mainstream laptops with tablet-like features, and if Intel's Sean Maloney is able to see the future, Ultrabooks will eclipse 40 percent of the notebook market by the end of 2012. The big challenge is in getting the price tag to where Intel wants it, which is below $1,000.
One thing you won't catch Intel doing is dwelling on the past to the point where it paralyzes the Santa Clara chip maker from moving forward. Consider Intel's CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage) laptops, an experiment that flopped and could have left a permanent bad taste in Intel's mouth. Instead, Intel CEO Paul Otellini calls it a "trial run" for what comes next: Ultrabooks.