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.