Last week at the IFA show in Berlin, the world got a look at several of the first Ultrabook systems based on Intel's concept for a new ultra-light category to rival tablets for portability and instant-on capability.
The results are somewhat underwhelming, and add fuel to the sceptics' view that Ultrabook is simply a new name for a thin-and-light laptop. If Intel wants Ultrabook to draw consumers away from tablets like Apple's iPad, the company is going to have to convince the vendors to do better than this.
To be fair, there is nothing at all wrong with the models shown at IFA, which sport super-thin designs. Acer's Aspire S3 is claimed to be just 13mm at its thinnest point, while Lenovo's IdeaPad U300s is not much thicker.
Nevertheless, the systems are based on the same second-generation Intel Core processors as many other laptops launched this year, and the remainder of the specifications seem to be fairly standard as well. Lenovo's model includes 4GB memory and a 256GB SSD, for example.
The models announced so far are also light, in the 1.2kg to 1.4kg range, but again this is nothing unusual for a thin-and-light laptop. In fact, most of the Ultrabooks shown so far are simply laptops with few design features to make them stand out from the crowd.
Pricing could ultimately determine whether Ultrabook is going to be a success or a failure as a category, and Intel has previously signalled that it wants these models to be more affordable than ultra-thin or ultra-light systems have traditionally been.
With the IdeaPad and the Aspire expected to start at about £700, these are effectively hitting the mainstream price bracket, but both are above Intel's target price of $1,000 (about £620) for Ultrabooks, and much more costly than most tablets.
Will buyers be swayed by the Ultrabook? Consumers wanting a convenient device for web access and digital media will probably prefer a tablet, while those needing a keyboard for word processing are still more likely to opt for a netbook or entry-level laptop at around the £300 mark.
If anyone is going to buy an Ultrabook, our guess is that it is most likely to be a business customer. However, this is just the first generation of Ultrabook, and Intel is reported to be planning a second wave based on the upcoming Ivy Bridge processor platform.
Even so, it looks like vendors will need to get their prices down further, or come up with something more imaginative than a slim but otherwise conventional laptop design, to draw consumers away from tablets.
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