Over the past few years, the netbook challenged what we thought about the notebook (or laptop) computer. Then, the tablet came along and challenged our ideas about the netbook. Now, Intel has introduced a proof of concept for a new form factor in portable computing referred to as the ultrabook. What is an ultrabook? Can it really gain significant market share so soon after netbooks and tablets took the tech world by storm?
These thin, light notebooks have all the promise of delivering performance comparable to their larger counterparts in the laptop market. Until recently, notebooks that were released with this basic form factor (including the MacBook Air) have been held back by cooling and power constraints. Having a low-powered processor that performs at the same level you would expect from a modern processor housed in a larger form factor was almost an impossible feat of engineering. Netbooks (many of which are actually thicker than ultrabooks) rely on ultra low powered (and low cost) processors that provide just enough computing power to run a browser and possibly one or two other light programs. Now, notebooks like the MacBook Air have Core i5 and i7 processors that are capable of standing toe-to-toe with the ones available in desktop and larger notebooks. Ultrabooks made by other manufacturers are also seeing very similar performance increases in smaller enclosures.
At the present time, Intel is working hard to bring this concept (sent on to manufacturers) to life at a price point that consumers will jump on. For ultrabooks to really take off, they need to be available at a price point that most consumers will consider spending on a computer. With most systems available for at or below the $500 mark, it’s hard to say that they’re going to really take off anytime very soon. However, one thing you can count on in this competitive market is that these prices will most certainly drop as soon a competitively priced model hits the shelves.
If you consider what an ultrabook would be capable of, and how the basic concept is already performing in the latest MacBook Air and already-released ultrabooks such as the Asus UX, these machines promise desktop-replacement notebook performance in an extremely light and thin form factor. They’re already being seen in the wild for under $1,000, and who knows how much cheaper they will be in the next few years? Will this new breed of portable computers lay the final nail in the coffin of the traditional laptop?