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Ultrabook pricing cuts close to cost

Ultrabooks are going to get cheaper, but they're already cutting very close to cost.

Acer Aspire S3 is already priced below $900.
Acer Aspire S3 is already priced below $900. CNET

The latest report on ultrabooks from Asia is the typical mix of odd assertions, gossip, and a smattering of speculation that could be categorized as news.

Tuesday's Digitimes report says, "Acer, Asustek Computer and Toshiba are expected to lower retail prices for ultrabooks to below US$1,000 by the end of 2011."

Let's see, we're well before the end of 2011 and already we have three ultrabooks priced under $1,000. The HP Folio 13 starts at $899, ditto for the Toshiba Portege Z835 (Model: Z835-P330--which was priced briefly at $799), and the Acer Aspire S3 (Model: S3-951-6646) can be had for as little as $888.

So far, no news.

Then, this statement, which is a real head-scratcher. "Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Dell will launch ultrabooks starting mid-November, the sources indicated."

Today, for those keeping track, is November 29 and two of those companies have already launched. Dell isn't expected to launch until CES--about a month from now.

But a little more digging does turn up something potentially newsworthy. The report says pricing could fall even further in 2012--possibly between 5 percent and 10 percent. Interesting because it mentions a $100 marketing "subsidy" from Intel. The question I would have is, how did ultrabook makers come out of the chute with $899.99 pricing? Are they doing the loss-leader thing or is there something else going on?

And, alas, some genuine hard data. (Winnowing out the chaff in these reports sometimes takes a few paragraphs.) A 13-inch solid-state drive-equipped ultrabook has a bill-of-materials estimated at US$690. Tack on original equipment manufacturer (OEM) costs of $100 and overall marketing/distribution costs $150, and you have a total of $940 in costs, according to the report.

That's entirely possible and confirms that PC makers are being very aggressive with ultrabook pricing and will likely continue to be.

The report aside, the next big upgrade for ultrabooks will be Intel's Ivy Bridge processor (think: faster graphics/multimedia processing). There will be a tinnitus-inducing decibel level at 2012 CES about Ivy Bridge ultrabooks. But the bottom line is that none of these will be commercially available until later in the spring.

Will these debut at $799? And later go as low as $699? The latter price point would give high-end tablets a run for their money. Until then, $899.99 isn't too shabby a price, though.