Rumors and whispers abound about the upcoming Ultrabook line of notebooks – you know, the ones that Intel hopes will be MacBook Air killers – but despite all the talk, we haven’t seen any hard facts as far as components or price points go. That may have changed today, thanks to a new product page on an Italian retailer’s site that appears to have gone up a bit prematurely.
The big question facing Ultrabooks right now is whether or not notebook makers will be able to sell them for less than $1,000, as Intel is encouraging them to do. To help manufacturers drop retail pricing to three digits, Intel reportedly agreed to a 20 percent drop in processor pricing for Ultrabooks, and it looks like Asus will respond with at least one model that dips below a grand (and at least one that doesn't).
Ah, fads. Without those brief, yet intense, bursts of consumer excitement, the majority of us may have never heard awesome tidbits like the Pet Rock, bell-bottom pants, the Macarena, Tickle Me Elmo or Trapper Keepers. If you listen to Acer chairman JT Wang, one of our useful modern electronics is soon to join those fabled ranks. That’s right, while the pundits are busy calling tablet PCs the best thing since sliced bread, Wang thinks the whole iPad deal is overblown. The future lies in Ultrabooks!
Acer isn't pitching its new TravelMate Timeline 8481T as an Ultrabook, but maybe that's because Intel is still finalizing its list of qualifications. As it stands, the 8481T is a 14-inch ultraportable that weighs just 3.7 pounds and struts around with a 0.87-inch profile, and that's with the 8-cell battery Acer says will provide up to 13 hours of run time. And though the LCD measures 14 inches, Acer trimmed the bezel by a third so that it would fit in a 13.3-inch footprint.
The only way you're getting a system with Intel's Thunderbolt interface at the moment is to venture over to the dark side and pick up one of the supported Mac models. Don't want to go that route? Your only other option is to hang tight until Thunderbolt strikes Windows PCs, which could start with Intel's upcoming Ultrabook form factor.
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.