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Intel to help more companies build ultrabooks

Chip giant will serve as a matchmaker of sorts between large device manufacturers and the smaller brands when it holds a meeting this week in Taipei, CNET has learned.

A Foxconn Ivy Bridge processor-based ultrabook just waiting for a company to slap a brand on the display bezel.
A Foxconn Ivy Bridge processor-based ultrabook just waiting for a company to slap a brand on the display bezel.
Brooke Crothers

Intel will step in to help smaller companies build ultrabooks, as the chipmaker continues its push to make the new supper-skinny laptop category a success, CNET has learned.

With the goal of getting smaller PC makers to supply branded ultrabooks, Intel will hold a meeting Wednesday in Taipei as a "matchmaker" between large device manufacturers--so-called ODMs or original design manufacturers--like Foxconn, Pegatron, Compal, and Quanta and smaller brands, according to an industry source familiar with Intel's plans.

The list of prospective ultrabook brands will include companies like Epson, Onkyo, Viewsonic, Mustek, Motion Computing, WiPro, and Positivo, according to the source. While some brands, like WiPro and Positivo, are not well known, they are big players in regional markets.

Smaller brands don't necessarily have the wherewithal to build ultrabooks, according to the source. The biggest brands, like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer, Asus, and Toshiba, are already supplying or readying ultrabooks and are not the focus in this case.

Those larger companies are now preparing for the next phase of ultrabooks based on Intel's Ivy Bridge chip. Models are due by late spring or early summer 2012.

Intel has become intimately involved in ultrabooks on many levels. It has already established a $300 million Ultrabook Fund for the development of features critical to the laptops such as battery, storage, touch interface, and chassis technologies.

The latter two--chassis materials and touch--are turning out to be areas of intense focus with the goal of lowering costs. For example, more traditional ultraslim designs from Apple, Samsung, and Asus use metal for the chassis but that is proving to be too costly for less-expensive ultrabooks priced under $900. And Intel CEO Paul Otellini said last month that in order to hit $699 and $799 price points, the chipmaker has to accelerate the reduction in the cost of touch.

In these areas, Intel is working directly with the component manufacturers in the supply chain to spur ultrabook momentum in 2012 and beyond, said the source.