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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Ultrabooks: Is it about the Hardware or Software?

In the last one week, we've seen a bevy of announcements from various IT vendors like Acer, Asus and Lenovo who were bubbling with excitement about the launch of their Ultrabooks (not sure what an Ultrabook is, click here to learn more about it).

Why were they excited?
In short, because they've got a product now to compete against Apple's MacBook Air.
Acer has set  high expectations for their Ultrabook

Should they be excited?
Yes, because till now, most laptop manufacturers have struggled to make major inroads into the lucrative tablet segment that Apple dominates with their iPad's and without having a product to compete with MacBook Air, they were left to fight it out in the traditional laptop computer segment, which has been seeing a downwards spiral as far as prices go.  The drop in prices has been so steep, that even an industry leader like HP has had to re-think how they position their PC business overall.  Now with a product that can compete with the MacBook Air, most laptop manufacturers hope they can make inroads again into a segment dominated by Apple that's been able to sell the MacBook Air at a premium.

Will Ultrabooks succeed?
While talking to one industry insider, it came out in discussion that this could actually determine whether it is the hardware or software that makes a difference.  Apple had a design that no one else had with the MacBook Air.  With other brands now coming with similar designs, it becomes clearly a battle of operating systems and is a case of Microsoft competing with Apple.  With most Ultrabooks also slated at around the USD 1,000 mark, it'll be interesting to see if they're able to grab marketshare at a price point lower than that of Apple.

Is it a MacBook Air? No
it's an Acer Aspire 3951
What we may also see happen (and will most likely happen) is that a lot of traditional laptop sales start converging towards Ultrabooks.  With the era of cloud computing ahead of us, portability is increasingly becoming the need of the hour and if you can get a nice 13" screen that is light enough to carry around, you could see many users compromise on hard disk space in the short term.

So who wins?
Intel is probably the party that benefits the most in this case as both Apple and the PC brands marketing Ultrabooks use their processors.

Do I still need a tablet?
It depends entirely on how, where and what you plan to do with it.  If you plan to use it primarily for work though, I'd still recommend buying an ultrabook or a laptop if you need Windows or else a MacBook.

When will it be available?
We've been told by a few brands that they'll have some Ultrabooks available in limited quantities by GITEX Shopper's which takes place from October 8 - 15, 2011.

Update: As rightly pointed out by Mita Srinavasan (@mita56 on Twitter), we missed out talking about where Google fits into the picture here and their Chromebooks.  This is a valid piece of feedback so it may well turn into a three-way  battle of Microsoft vs.  Apple vs. Google.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics