Ultrabooks Get Ready to Tussle with Apple's MacBook Air

Ultrabooks Get Ready to Tussle with Apple's MacBook Air

Last week saw several notebook makers officially launch their first Ultrabook models, which are thin and light laptops built around a set of Intel guidelines and intended to compete with Apple's MacBook Air. In order to do that, Intel wants these Windows-based machines to sell for less than $1,000. But how low do they really need to go to attract a mainstream audience?

It's a good question, and one of a handful CNet's Brooke Crothers asked IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell in a recent interview. Here's what he had to say regarding price:

"I think they need to be at $799 [to become a mainstream laptop]. And Intel's put some pretty tough guidelines in place (e.g., maximum thickness of 0.8 inches)," O'Donnell said. "Is there a way to relax the guidelines where it's still good enough but allows me to hit a better price point? So you can get close but make it $200 cheaper? That may be necessary."


Acer's recently announced Aspire S3 Ultrabook

By comparison, the cheapest MacBook Air is a $999 11-inch model, which is slightly larger than a netbook, but much more powerful. The least expensive 13-inch MacBook Air runs $1,299, and these are the notebooks the Ultrabook category will compete with.

According to O'Donnell, Ultrabooks still need to get cheaper, because even though a 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $1,299, "the reality is that Apple owns the thousand-dollar-plus market. That's why it's so incredibly price sensitive and price dependent."

You can read the full interview here, and then be sure to post your own thoughts in the comments section below.
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The Air (any of them) is too expensive, and I wouldn't consider one of them for the price that they want. $799.00 Laptops made by anyone should be very full featured for me to think about them too. Plenty of very usable Laptops are sold for much less every day in many outlets. If you don't need to have the very newest gear, you can get outrageous deals if you look around a little.

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I was going to agree with the poster above but realneil is right. I mean the only thing these ultrabooks have is the super thin factor that does not amount to much; if I wanted an ultrabook, I would expect it to do mostly the same things other notebooks can do. I mean seriously, I can't understand the ultra thin notebooks and why people want them.

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It's pretty simple really, portability. In a world that's increasingly emphasizing mobility the laptop market is feeling real pressure to compete against these growing mobile options and creating a specific ultra portable standard is how they are going about it.

You won't really see the reasoning quite yet though because these first gen models don't really fit the mold that Intel intends for Ultrabooks and it won't be till Ivy Bridge comes out that Ultrabooks will really start to make sense, but that's only Q1 to Q2 of next year to wait.

While the lower end netbook market will be getting a major shakeup by 2013, Intel ultimately plans to compete directly with ARM and Ultrabooks are like the proverbial line in the sand to separate Intel's higher end solutions from the lower end.

No longer can Intel limit ATOM performance to separate the markets, something they established to protect the higher profit margins of their higher end products versus netbooks which are sold with very little profit, and once Silvermont ATOM updates comes out we'll be seeing a complete reworking of Intel's offerings. Though it may not be till Airmont comes out a year or two later that we'll see the real push into the mobile arena.

Suffice it to say, this is only the beginning and things often make more sense in hindsight than they do in the beginning.

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Having so much power in such a small form factor is definitely convenient, but for many the price /will/ matter. I think this is for sure something to keep our eyes on, because there is so much more to come I'm sure. The competition in this arena is going to build, and hopefully because of that we will see some pretty (and hopefully cheap *crosses fingers*) new toys.

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Once Ivy Bridge comes out next year Asus for one has reportedly has plans to offer Ultrabooks at $600 starting price. Though others may take longer to switch to Ivy Bridge but performance and pricing should get better at that point.

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