Can Intel's Ultrabook concept succeed?

Will consumers take to very thin laptops that may hover just below the $1,000 mark?

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read

During this week's Computex trade show in Taiwan, Intel announced plans to support a new laptop category it calls the Ultrabook. These laptops will highlight thin bodies, Intel CPUs, and possibly touch screens (or other tabletlike features), and are targeted to cost less than $1,000.

On the surface, this sounds like a plan for slightly less-expensive versions of the MacBook Air or Samsung Series 9, although even slightly under $1,000 is considered a premium price for a laptop.

This is actually Intel's second stab at this market. A year ago, Intel was pushing its consumer ultralow-voltage CPUs, or CULV, in an effort to help PC makers bring thinner laptops to consumers. These systems largely died on the vine, as the low-voltage versions of Intel's Core-series CPUs had disappointing performance without really boosting battery life all that much. Intel called those systems "ultrathin" laptops, but the concept never really caught on. Acer, for example, dropped the CULV chipsfor full-voltage ones in its slim TimelineX series.

Though thinner, more powerful laptops are always a laudable goal, is Intel's claim that by 2012 these new Ultrabook laptops will account for 40 percent of the laptop market realistic? Considering some of the most popular laptops on CNET are already reasonably thin (but not as thin as the Ultrabook promise of 0.8 inch) and cost well under $1,000, the Ultrabook may be another case of a solution in search of a problem. Recent examples of laptops that balance size, power, and price include Dell's $999 0.97-inch XPS 15z, Toshiba's $749 1.1-inch Portege R835, and HP's 1.2-inch, AMD-powered Pavilion dm1z.

Remember that Netbooks were largely an organic phenomenon--consumer demand for these small, low-cost machines forced PC makers to embrace the previously obscure category. A top-down pronouncement on what consumers want from companies looking to sell new hardware is a much tougher sell.

Will the Ultrabook break through as a new laptop category? Let us know what you think in our poll or in the comments section below.