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Intel describes three phases of the 'Ultrabook'

Intel has provided an Ultrabook release schedule, which points to the inclusion of technologies like USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt inside "insanely sleek" systems.

Ultrabook devices will be rolled out in roughly three phases, with both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt technologies as key features, according to an Intel blog item posted Thursday. Intel and PC makers are staking a big part of their laptop and hybrid device future on Ultrabooks.

The Asus UX21 Ultrabook.
The Asus UX21 Ultrabook. CNET

The blog item, which begins by referring to a "strategic inflection point"--a phrase used often by founder and former CEO Andy Grove--drops other catchphrases, such as "sea change." Is this the usual product hype? Probably not.

Ultrabooks may in fact radically alter laptop computing. Look no further than the MacBook Air. Apple's newest iteration of the Air is probably the best example of the future of laptop computing. It's remarkably thin (less than 0.8 inches) and light (less than 3 pounds), yet powerful.

But that's just Apple, of course. The Ultrabook, on the other hand, is really about PC makers: companies like Asus, Dell, Sony, and Hewlett-Packard. Asus is already on the record with two Ultrabooks due this fall: the UX21 and UX31, while HP is rumored to have Ultrabooks in the works.

And eventually what an Ultrabook becomes is anybody's guess. "Eventually you'll think of an Ultrabook as a tablet when you want it, a PC when you need it," Intel said.

The Ultrabook's three phases, according to Intel:

  • Phase 1: This was kicked off when Intel introduced its latest Ultra-Low Voltage 2nd Generation Intel Core processors in June that will bring new systems to shelves this holiday season.
  • Phase 2: Centers around the next generation of Intel micro-architecture, code-named Ivy Bridge, with processors scheduled for availability in systems in the first half of 2012. Faster I/O such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt technologies are also part of Intel's ongoing work to drive the PC platform forward.
  • Phase 3: 2013 Intel micro-architecture dubbed Haswell. Accelerating the Ultrabook and reinventing the capabilities of the laptop in sleek systems.

Other attributes include "ultra-fast start up" based on Intel's Rapid Start Technology, which boots up a system almost instantly from a deep sleep, and extended battery life: Ultrabooks will offer 5 hours of battery life even in the sleekest form factors, with some systems delivering 8 hours or more for all-day usage.