Will Intel's Ultrabook form factor come with an integral Achilles Heel?
Subject: General Tech | August 3, 2011 - 06:24 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel
Look at that UX21 there, isn't it gorgeous? Only 1.1kg of brushed aluminium, fully kitted out with a new style lithium battery, is only 1.7cm thick and it has ASUS' Instant On technology which will boot you to desktop in 5 seconds. It was shown off as the shining example of what Intel's Ultrabook could be at this years CES and everyone who saw it loved it. It seemed that Intel was going to go straight to the core of Apple's ultra light market, not that their processors aren't already in Apple's MacBooks but it is nice to keep the PC partners happy as well.
DigiTimes has heard from a few manufacturers and are ready to add a large lead weight to the Ultrabook, the same weight that dragged down the CULV; namely price. When competing with Apple, the number one thing you need to do is beat them on price. You might be able to match their quality of design, or match them on the size of the notebook or even on the weight but the problem is that Apple was there first. Consumers know Apple's ultramobile platforms and have been using them for years, so if a newcomer tries stealing market share from Apple the only thing they cannot match is Apple's prices. The manufacturers that DigiTimes talked to placed the cost of the components they need to include to meet Intel's specfications are ~$1000, which is the market price of a lower end MacBook Air. Since businesses tend to like to make a bit of profit, as does everyone else in the supply chain, the cost of even a low end Ultrabook will be higher than an equivalent MacBook. Unless Intel is willing to drop prices, the Ultrabook will likely do even worse than the CULV, since at least the CULV had a mobile power user niche to crawl into and hide.
"While Intel is positioning ultrabook as a set of specifications to enable partners to design notebooks imitating MacBook Air, ultrabooks may encounter the same frustrations as CULV notebooks did if prices are not lower than those of the Air, according to sources from Taiwan-based supply chain makers.
The sources pointed out that Intel's ultrabook concept is not a brand new innovation, but a design to allow first-tier notebook players to quickly catch up with Apple's advances in the ultra-thin segment and help the notebook industry recover from the impact of tablet PCs.
Intel has been hosting conferences with the upstream notebook supply chain about its ultrabook since the second quarter and is providing suggestions and assistance in designing related components and methods for reducing costs. Ultrabooks will feature a similar design as MacBook Air and adopt li-polymer batteries, which will completely remove the device's capability of exchanging the battery, to significantly reduce weight, while the machine will adopt metal chassis for heat dissipation and a solid state drive (SSD).
In addition, all the components will be soldered on to the machine's PCB to save space and reduce weight, but the new methods will completely change the existing notebook production process of combining several modules together.
The sources pointed out that the new MacBook Airs are priced at about US$999-1,599 with rather strong demand in the US; however, designing an ultrabook based on Intel's technical suggestions will still be unable to reduce the machine's price level to lower than the MacBook Air's unless Intel is willing to reduce its prices, which already account for one-third of the total cost. If Intel does reduce its prices there is a chance for vendors to provide pricing below US$1,000."
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