If this sounds familiar, one only needs to go back to the Netbook craze that was sweeping the "Apple is doomed"-style headlines just a few years ago. Those tiny little notebook computers, according to every other expert, were going to displace Apple's growing notebook share and squash any idea of a touch-screen tablet.
Fast-forward to the present and the iPad is the best-selling consumer electronics product of all-time, the iPhone is dominating the profit share of the smartphone industry, and Macs have seen constant growth every year as the PC market continues to slip.
Those facts aside, Intel product manager Anand Kajshmanan and Intel media relations representative Alison Wesley say they believe that the forthcoming breed of ultrathin ultrabooks will be better than anything Apple has to offer.
According to Intel, there are four main things consumers are looking for in a mobile computing device.
- Ultraresponsiveness. When users want to use their device, it should turn on, without waiting or interruptions.
- Portability, battery life, and connectivity. If you are on the go, your device should be able to go with you and last as long as you need it while connecting to a variety of communications signals.
- Devices that look cool and feel great. In other words, design aesthetic matters.
- Security. Users should feel safe when using their devices on the go.
Before we get to how Intel thinks the new ultrabooks will be better than what Apple has, let's test the two main devices ultrabooks will be targeting (the new iPad and the MacBook Air) against Intel's criteria.
Both the iPad and the MacBook Air have instant-on capabilities and rarely, if ever, have startup lagging. The iPad currently offers best-in-class battery life, even with 4G enabled, as well as LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity. The MacBook Air (13-inch) offers up to 7 hours of wireless Web time and includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
I have yet to meet anyone, even the most anti-Apple troll around, who is willing to say that Apple's products are not beautiful and do not feel great to use. And, as for security, while Trojans do exist on Mac OS X, no known viruses currently plague Apple's platform. Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, is also virus-free.
Now, how does Intel believe ultrabook PCs will be better than the iPad and MacBook Air?
As usual, Intel's focus is on price points and tech specs. The company believes that users make their purchasing decisions based purely on the numbers received during relatively pointless benchmarking tests and what the cost of the device is. So, Intel's solution to making ultrabooks better than iPads and MacBook Airs is to make them cheaper.
Unfortunately for Intel's line of thinking, a key aspect of consumer buying habits has become the user experience. The entire Mac lineup, as well as the iPhone and the iPad, has demonstrated this over the last few years. Despite Apple being considered a luxury brand with prices that seem to outweigh the features available when compared with cheaper PCs, it continues to dominate profit share in the mobile space.
Why is that?
Customers now recognize the value of having a product and an ecosystem surrounding that product that simply works. The entire experience of owning an Apple product is what separates it from any other device-maker. No other company can match it.
Whether buying your device online or in the store, the purchasing process is straightforward and easy to complete. The package design is pleasant and useful. The setup is quick and intuitive, allowing you to use your device in just a few short minutes. The products are designed with the user in mind -- how it feels in your hand, how the buttons and keys respond, where ports are placed. The software drives the hardware with the most sophisticated, secure, and efficient processes in the industry. Support is readily available and incredibly effective. The ecosystem, from iTunes to iCloud to additional software, supports users who want to discover, create, and share.
Intel thinks a few features should help to close the gap Apple has opened. Intel's market research (of which Apple does none) claims that consumers want touch screens, sure, but need to have physical keyboards. Windows 8, according to Intel, should support touch-screen clamshell devices (which would also have physical keyboards) by 2013 at the latest.
Now, if that also sounds familiar, there was a company called Research In Motion that subscribed to that belief for mobile phones -- that people could not live without a physical keyboard. Not that stock price is the ultimate metric of a company's value or success, but RIM is trading around $13 per share (and falling).
Intel also claims that, "[t]he fact that you have content creation on Ultrabooks is a huge differentiator." As a content creator myself, I'm not sure exactly what Intel is trying to infer here. Is Intel's position that Apple devices like the iPad and MacBook Air are not suitable for content creation?
I would ask the fine folks at Intel to take a look at a few apps. GarageBand, iPhoto, Keynote, Pages, Numbers, and iMovie, are all written for iPad (and Mac OS X, which, of course, runs on the MacBook Air), and are all used for content creation. And those are just the apps that Apple makes.
Based on Intel's assessment, I cannot see why an ultrabook would be any better than current iPads or MacBook Airs. The "post-PC era" is here, and I don't see consumers taking a step back.
Of course, there will still be a few who will favor an ultrabook over a MacBook Air or iPad, but until the market actually tells me, with real numbers like profit share and unit sales (not shipments), that ultrabooks are preferred over Apple products, I'll stick to creating on (and investing in) my Apple products.
Can an ultrabook outclass Apple's current mobile offerings? Why? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!