Ultrabooks: The next, cheaper phase

The next chapter for ultrabooks promises lower prices--meaning, look for $699 and below. Toshiba is already heading that way.

Toshiba is already pushing toward the next phase of ultrabooks--which can be summed up as making the skinny laptops more affordable.

Upcoming ultrabooks from Toshiba will break below the $700 mark, according to Carrie Cowan, a product manager in Toshiba's Digital Products Division. She spoke to CNET on Wednesday on the CES show floor (see video below).

To date, Toshiba's sole ultrabook offering has been the Portege Z830. Though it has been priced on occasion as low as $699 at Best Buy, it is usually listed at $799 or higher.

And Portege laptops are typically listed at even higher prices, as the brand represents Toshiba's upscale offerings.

But this spring Toshiba plans to bring ultrabooks into its most affordable Satellite line. That means prices at $699 and possibly even lower, Cowan said.

To prove her point, Cowan was showing a future 14-inch ultrabook on the CES show floor that will pack Intel's newest Ivy Bridge processors. Those processors are slated to begin shipping in volume this spring.

The 14-incher will not be as skinny as the Portege Z830 nor will it be offered with a solid-state drive only, like the Portege. At the lowest price points, Satellite ultrabooks will have standard spinning hard disk drives with a flash memory cache, Cowan said.

More generally, this signals that many laptops will fall into the ultrabook category and these designs may eventually be common enough that they lose their unique ultrabook moniker.

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