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Monday, 9 January 2012

The Non-Death of Ultrabooks

Is the laptop dead? 

Have Ultrabooks failed before they’ve even had a chance to make an impact?
If you listen to a lot of the analysts, journalists and industry observers out there, they would make you believe that this is indeed the case.  The things is, I don’t think many of them have actually understood the opportunities that Ultrabooks possess.
Case in point: there was a story that circulated in Fast Company this week entitled “Is the Laptop Dead? Yup” where the author of the story, Kit Eaton has essentially said ultrabooks are just another name for a laptop and there isn’t much of a future left for them.  Most journalists including Eaton seem to see Ultrabooks as merely a Macbook Air competitor which may get some extra bells and whistles going forward such as touch screens or pico projectors.  
HP may launch a dual-touchscreen Ultrabook this week at the Consumer
Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Image: slashgear.com 
Another story that appeared in AllThingsD this week titled “Ultrabooks, the Ultra-Fancy New Name for Laptops” says it bluntly where the author, Ina Fried, says in short that Intel is playing a game of deception wherein they’ve simply just renamed laptops with a new term that allows it compete at a value similar to that of the Macbook Air.
I’ve had the benefit of spending a decent amount of time with Intel to understand their vision of the Ultrabooks that shows you there is a lot more to it than the critics have given Intel credit for.  What we’re seeing now and likely to see at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is just the first generation of the Ultrabooks.  Towards the latter part of 2012 and 2013 is when we’ll really see Ultrabooks take centre stage.
Ultrabooks are a form factor that will mutate itself and be a cross between what we’re used to seeing in our conventional laptop computers, tablets and smartphones as we seem them today.  The form factor will move beyond the clam shape designs that we’re used to seeing into candy bar, tablet or slider form factors.  The operating system will be Windows 8 or possibly even Android.  Ultrabooks will have touch screen capabilities.  They will also most likely have a wireless video streaming technology so that you can work with your Ultrabook off your monitor, TV set or any other display device that you may have (Intel already has a WIDI technology that’s been around for years that can enable this today).  The battery life could well reach 30 days and switch on instantly much like your tablet does today.  You won’t switch off an ultrabook, you’ll put it into a standby mode like you do with your tablet.  Ultrabooks will also be capable of downloading your mails even when they’re off much like your smartphone does when it’s standby mode.
With all of this, Ultrabooks will move well beyond what conventional clamshell laptops of today do.  To say Ultrabooks or laptops are dead is a premature statement.  There is still life left to this but judge the category not by comparing it merely to what a Macbook Air is as who knows what the Macbook Air will look like later in 2012.  

Update (9th Jan 2012): Intel showed off some of what we can expect from their Ultrabooks with something called Nikiski.  Engadget has got a video on their site and it's worth checking out (click here to see it).   I hope to have see this tomorrow hopefully during the Intel keynote here at CES.

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