Laptops

Ultrabooks: A new era for PCs or Wintel innovation bankruptcy?

For the first time in years, PCs grabbed the spotlight at CES 2012. Ultrabooks were everywhere, but was it an innovation win or an innovation failure?

Photo credit: James Martin/CNET

Among the 30-foot displays of massive TVs and the now endless parade of new smartphones and tablets, it's easy to forget that CES is also the PC industry's biggest and most important event of the year and has been for over a decade since the demise of Comdex. At CES 2012, PCs grabbed more of the spotlight than they have for years by focusing all their energy around one new concept: Ultrabooks.

Intel, Microsoft, and all the major PC makers banged the drum, tons of new products were unveiled, and grandiose statements were unleashed about this being the beginning of something g new and revolutionary for the PC.

It's the biggest noise the PC industry has made at CES since the launch of the Tablet PC a decade ago. But, the big question is whether this is real innovation that will change the way people use technology or if it's just a bunch of trumped up marketing chatter to get people excited about buying laptops again (coming from a collection of companies whose PCs are desperately losing sales to tablets).

At Intel's CES press conference on January 9, the chipmaker lined up rows of Ultrabooks from hardware makers around the world and claimed that it is "leading the industry to re-invent the personal computing experience with the new category of Ultrabook devices. Shaped by extensive user research, Ultrabook devices will increasingly give people the most complete and satisfying, no-compromise and secure computing experience in one sleek and portable device."

Mooly Eden, vice president of Intel's PC division, poked fun at the audience and entertained them with his passionate pitch for Ultrabooks. But, it was pretty much the same Ultrabook stump speech that he's been giving since last fall at the Intel IDF event, where he said:

"Not since the introduction of Intel Centrino technology more than 8 years ago have we witnessed such a fundamental transformation of personal computing. Today's devices powered by our second generation Intel Core processors are giving people a personal computing experience that they've never had before and we won't stop there. We know people desire and demand more from their computers -- to create, consume and share -- which is why we have challenged ourselves and the industry to make Ultrabook the most adaptable, complete and satisfying device."

Fortunately, at CES, Intel did show off three new forward-looking advances that it's working on:

  1. A concept codenamed Nikiski that is a transparent glass palm rest that serves as touch-based interface where the entire palm rest of the Ultrabook becomes a touchpad that can distinguish between your palm brushing it and your finger touching it to interact with the screen; when the laptop is closed, the other side of the palm rest provides at-a-glance information to data in your laptop
  2. A gesture-based interface similar to Microsoft Kinect that will not only come to Ultrabooks but will be used on other types of PC products like public kiosks (that's going to get some funny looks)
  3. A voice recognition interface for Ultrabooks that is being developed in partnership with Dragon Naturally Speaking and will not require a headset

I have to applaud Intel's focus on user experience and I'm thrilled to see the company trying to innovate with different interface ideas. "We're getting close to enough compute power to enable this natural user interface," said Eden.

However, none of the innovative concepts that Intel showed off at CES 2012 were available in any of the Ultrabooks that were being unveiled or promoted at CES. As a result, most of what was being shown off at CES was just a bunch of thin laptops.

Even worse, the Ultrabooks from three of the world's top PC makers -- Hewlett-Packard, Acer, and Dell -- are shameless knock-offs of the MacBook Air, which first debuted four years ago this month.

I remember when the first MacBook Air came out and TechRepublic did its in-depth Cracking Open of the device. TechRepublic's Head Technology Editor Bill Detwiler and I looked at each other and both said, "This is the future of laptops." Neither of us wanted one at that point, because it was too expensive and too underpowered, but we saw the potential for an ultra-slim laptop that boots in seconds and instantly wakes from sleep. Once people saw this, it would be the kind of laptop everyone wanted.

The next generation MacBook Air models that came out in 2010 and 2011 had a lot more power, a refined design, and finally got the price down to where they started at $1000. As a result, they've become a huge hit. While the overall laptop market dropped by 8.7% in Q4 2011 (hurt by low supplies of disc drives but also people flocking to tablets), the MacBook Air sales were reportedly up by 20%.

This is why Intel, Microsoft, and the PC hardware companies are falling all over themselves to get Ultrabooks to market as quickly as possible. The problem is that nearly all of them look alike and, even worse, they look like bad copies of the MacBook Air. There are some exceptions, like the Samsung Series 9 and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, but those are few and far between. With all of the smart people there are at all of these companies, I find it impossible to believe that the best they can do is make bad knockoffs of the MacBook Air that aren't even much less expensive.

It's as if all the big computer companies have declared innovation bankruptcy.

While Intel's forward-looking ideas about bringing voice, multi-touch, and gesture controls to Ultrabooks have promise, the chipmaker is going to have to have to coordinate closely with Microsoft to nail the implementation so that it makes sense for users. The innovation Intel pushed the most at CES 2012 was Nikiski. While the full multitouch palmrest makes sense (as long as it truly ignores input from your palms when your typing), the other half of Nikiski, the mini touchscreen for checking emails and social updates, is what I call "demoware." It looks great in a demo or a slideshow but makes no sense in the real world. My favorite example of this was Google Wave. Most of the tech press went nuts over it when it was introduced. I put it on my list of the worst tech products of 2009 and asked, "Why on earth would anyone want to use that?" With Nikiski's mini touchscreen, I have the same question. If I want to get at data on my laptop, I'll flip open my laptop. If I want at-a-glance information on a smaller touchscreen then I'll just whip out my smartphone.

Of Nikiski, Eden said, "Don't even think about copying it because we already patented it." I don't think they're going to have to worry about that.

The bottom line is that Intel, Microsoft, and all of their hardware partners are going to have do better than this. They need to emerge from innovation bankruptcy and do a lot more than just rubber-stamping Apple's stuff. Otherwise, why should people buy a knockoff of the MacBook Air when they can get the real thing for about the same price? Other than for the dwindling population of people who are heavily invested in Windows desktop software, that's going to increasingly be a tough sell for the Wintel coalition.

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Come join the debate

This is a big topic for 2012 and we're going to be debating it in depth as part of the ZDNet's Great Debate. On Tuesday I'll be moderating the debate "Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?" between Ed Bott and Robin Harris. Come join the converstation.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

139 comments
mitcoes
mitcoes

Any MS WOS machine is outperformed by any Linux one. Ubuntu is far from being preinstalled. But Google Chrome OS or even Android x86 or even better x64 with Chrome OS (better also if it is a x64 Chorme) as an app as Ubuntu can be installed as an app or dual boot, can be a better computer than an MS WOS one and open a new market for Ultrabooks. Where of course any brand can let the users choose what OS will be preinstalled. MS WOS: MS Windows OS also known as MS WOrSt in a funny way.

sh10453
sh10453

Personally, I never cared for any Apple products, and I own NONE of them. As electrical engineer (and probably most other fields of engineering would have similar demands), I don't care for Intel's little gimmicks of touch pads and the like. I wish they'd spend the research money on something worthy of such money. Intel bosses need to assign some REAL work for this group of engineers, such as advancing screen resolution, for example. What matters to me most in a laptop is a few things, the rest is gimmicks (to me): 1- Processor power. The recent generation of the i7 is quite welcome. 2- Graphics, which has come a long way, but it can get better, a lot better. 3- Network. I find it hard to believe some computer makers are still using 10/100. If the network is not a gigabit network, I will NOT buy it, period. Try to download a 1 gigabyte or 3 gigabyte file on both 10/100 & 10/100/100, and you will understand. 4- Screen resolution. This is the killer. They are banging the drums of advertisements for a laptop with HD resolution that is not even a full HD (of 1080) or close to it. Do they think people are still in the 1990s and don't know about screen resolutions? Even 1080 is lousy, very lousy. This is the stuff they need to be working on improving. This is their challenge, not a glass touch-pad. For crying out loud, don't make a high-end machine with the latest i7 processor, 8GB RAM (or 16), and then give it a low resolution screen, and a lousy 10/100 Bast-T network. If you build such a powerful machine, don't insult its computing power! It's really pathetic to know that this is the ADVANCED stuff that Intel is busy with! Just my 2-cents, with all my respect to every opinion. And don't take me wrong, I still like apple juice!

christopher.thomas
christopher.thomas

I was looking at Netbooks for the longest time then realized they were underpowered and unable to handle high-def video (except those with NVidia ION). Lo and behold, I found HP was selling the DM1 line that had an AMD E-350 dual-core chip, 4 gig of RAM, big hard drives, Windows 64 bit, 11.6" screen 1366x768 for around $500. I bought a DM1-3040CA a year ago and have never looked back. Although Intel has patented the word "Ultrabook", HP/AMD were already ahead of the game. I believe HP calls them "compact laptops".

tbostwick
tbostwick

Most of the comments about Ultrabooks being what the MacBookAir was 4 years ago, are simply spot on. WinTel is not leading the charge anymore, but following Apple-steps, which of course does not equal innovation. If I have to run my Ultrabook on Win7 I'm already what I'd get on a similar Mac (whether you like this fact or not). When I add that I can run practically anything and do anything on my Mac (today) + a ton of features not even on a single Ultrabook, I'm sticking with my Mac. Ultrabook's are a large step above netbooks -which have a small place and use still, but aren't enough of a leap to matter to much of anything over time. Move on - next leap in tech please WinTel!

janajaf
janajaf

although from the tone of your article it seems you don't think so. Apple makes very pretty products. So does Sony. But I don't like the attitudes of their companies as well as the fact that they are usually underpowered for the price. So I don't buy them. Dell has also gotten too controlling. I'm looking for the "other" guy's products - whomever that may be. I want pretty, but I want power more. I want what will work with what I already have in terms of expertise with programs. I started with DOS and prefer typing to any other form of use for a computer. When I use friends and relatives Apple products they always annoy me with limitations. I actually do not find them user friendly and never have. Like I said - very pretty but that's it. Tablets are very cute and I would love to have an excuse for one but I can't see anything that could justify them. I do not want to cart around heavy stuff and phones are really frustrating to try to use (typing) so it seems to me that one of these ultra books will be just the ticket for me. So far everything I have seen is missing something important. I am hoping that this Spring will bring just the right combo to market because I do need a new laptop. My old Lenovo convertable tablet (which I really liked) is 5 years old. Slow and ancient although still working. Competition with companies trying to outdo each other sounds like it will get me what I want. Netbooks were a tad too slow and small (keyboards almost as annoying as phones). Got my fingers crossed. Keep hoping - maybe the next model from Lenovo or Toshiba -...........

citiwidecomputers
citiwidecomputers

It seems to me that Apple tries to develop products that by design exceed expectations and serve the purchasers for many years. On the other hand with Wintel products, the focus is on trying to build a product that is $10 less than the competitions. Today???s Wintel notebooks are designed with built-in obsolesce, and last until the warranty is expired, if that long. Case in point I currently have a 6 month old laptop built by a major manufacturer in the industry that has an AMD E240 processor (1.6G single core with 512m L2 cache) and 2GB of ram in for repair. By the time it boots into Windows, loads the AV software (a must in the PC world), connects to the Internet and opens a web browser the CPU is runs at 80% and most of the ram is used up. I sure that this Notebook was designed to meet a price point (sub $300 retail) rather than a performance benchmark. Now that the low end market has been exploited and the consumers are moving on to tablets, the manufactures are producing " Ultrabooks" to get back some market share. If they would have produced an Ultrabook all along the consumer as well as the whole industry would be better off.

fvazquez
fvazquez

So if the tool I use solves the task I get paid for, then I don't care if it's brand X or Y, so if the leading brand makes better tools, why should I go to another brand that wont fill my needs?

lionel.menchaca
lionel.menchaca

Jason: I'd recommend you spend some time with an XPS 13 before you call it a cheap knockoff of the Macbook Air. In my experience, the XPS 13 offers better battery life and a 13.3" screen in a form factor barely bigger than other 11" notebooks. Regardless of what fits under the ultrabook umbrella, we're focused on building more powerful thin and light laptops. After the two Adamos, see the XPS 14z and 15z. Beyond that, we're not sitting still. Thanks, LionelatDell

gak
gak

I want a tablet that is capable to run Linux (ANY Linux, not the hardware+software=experience crap) and is as powerful as Celeron 500, so the rest goes to battery life. It should have some wireless interface so that I can control my main machine with it and even do Internet if a tethering phone or a GSM modem is nearby. USB and a memory card, better 3, MUST be present. HDD or SSD drive MUST be an option. And the price MUST be below $150. If they do not see sufficient margins there, let them have no business at all.

Stewart Knox
Stewart Knox

I have two PC laptops one is aHP Pavillion (2-3yrs) and the other Dell (4-5yrs). Both weigh a tonne and being often out and about they kill me. My wife has Macbook Pro which has more power than the Air, weighs a fraction of my Dell and is less than half as thick. In fact it makes me quite jealous when I have lugged several house bricks worth around all day. Also it automatically and wirelessly syncs with her iPad2 and iPhone4s However, I am not sure I really need an super ultra thin PC or an Air for that matter I would just want a much lighter, thiner PC with plenty of power, good connectivity and which is robust enough for me take out and about. Most important is I won't need the services of a Chiropractor when I get home at night. Equally I don't want to have to extend my mortgage to buy it . The marketing philosophy of all these new ultra thin Macbook Air pretenders is to price them at or above the Mac in the belief that the gizmotechs will want to pay the earth so that they can impress their friends when they proudly tell them how much it cost. I think the majority of the market is a lot more savy than that and they would be better matching the Macbook Pro for size and weight go for i5 or i7 but market at a sensible price. I think most of would be happy with that scenario

cbslc
cbslc

I've had toshiba protege's since the early 2000's. And I had a really cool Sony Vaio (TZ??) in 1999. They all had ~ 11" screens had intel cpu's ... No they did not have SSD drives - they had 2.5" inch drives. When I saw my first MB Air - I though what a rip off of the Sony Vaio. So how are any of the ultrabooks or MB Air's new??

zaq.hack
zaq.hack

These devices all look the same because Intel put up money for them to look the same. I don't blame HP or Acer or Dell - they continue to make products that people actually want and buy. They would not have made a MacBook Air look-alike without Intel's bribe, in my opinion. Face it - Windows is less relevant by the hour. More people are using Mac and Linux and Android and iPads and whatever else more of the time. Windows is that thing you drag out when you have to do "work" and you only use it when you are forced to use it. If Windows 8 isn't absolutely awesome on a touch interface, Microsoft is going to be irrelevant in the O/S market within a couple of years. They have had tablet PC's (love mine), Surface, and phones to learn from, so I have reasonable hope that they will pull it off ... but the future requires Windows in a slim form factor or they risk losing "real work" to other platforms, too ... and then they are screwed.

jagans65
jagans65

Hi all, I just read this article and I have to tell you that I really was not able to see what these ultrabooks do that anyone would really care about. Anyone not including those who definine themselves by having the latest and greatest gizmo out there. From what I can see, people are finally starting to understand that we as a nation have to stop living a virtual life and start actually living life. It is time to put down the gizmos and start talking to your children, people. People have their heads down looking at these stupid little video screens when they are right smack dab in the middle of the biggest 3D experience that They will ever have. Its called life.................Get yours today by picking up your head!

mnemennth
mnemennth

That pretty much covers it. mnem Here... let me tell you about this amazing innovation in socks...

twconsulting
twconsulting

The clamshell "notebook" (which quickly ended the original laptop design) came out around 1990 if I remember correctly. Since then every vendor peddling notebooks has been working to offer various flavors of notebooks - thin & light being just one flavor. As a person who has traveled for work for over 30 years, size/weight has always been an important consideration for me. I have ollowed the thin & light global market since the early 90's. Contrary to the espoused belief the Apple invented the "ultrabook" class of computer, major Wintel vendors have been offering "ultrabook" class notebooks long before Apples Mac Air, just not in the US. Dynamism.com started offering sub 3.5 lbs notebooks running the most current low-power processors with decent graphics at least 10 years ago - primarily from Japanese players like Fujitsu, Panasonic and Sony, but more recently from other Asian-based vendors. They were always equipped with the most powerful low-volage processors and had adequate memory and enough storage, and they always seemed to cost between $2K & $2500. A quick perusal of Dynamism today shows at least a dozen makes/models with the leading edge specs in the same price range (albeit now with SSD and a few other goodies). As most notebook users won't pay that much for a computer, regardless of the light weight, there just wasn't a market for high-end lightweight notebooks in the US. Apple, however, with its successful strategy of relatively high quality for a relatively high price, decided to bring the "ultrabook" platform to the masses. They were smart enough to offer an entry level unit (with much lower processing power and extremely low storage capacity) at a price point that avid Apple followers would buy. But, by the time you power the Mac Air with the best processor and the largest SSD, guess what, it costs around $1800, which is what one would expect when you factor in the reduced component costs for the much larger volume of units Apple sells. As a user that wants/needs a portable computer that allows me to both do my job and have some fun while on the road, I applaud Apple for bringing the "ultrabook" to the US market and showing that computer vendors can provide high quality/performance in a lightweight package at a pricepoint that allows them to thrive. I also applaud the Asian-based Wintel vendors for doing most of the innovation in this class to show what is possible in the lightweight category. And I am glad that the Wintel vendors (both domestic and international) are finally bringing their own versions of the "ultrabook" to the US market. Users like me keep getting the benefit of the best solutions at a reduced pricepoint.

pikeman666
pikeman666

PC makers want to make profits. They can't sell at the MacAir price. Retooling costs money and aside from the cool factor, who needs an ultalight notebook? I'll settle for a relatively light one and expect a commodity price. That's what we're talking about here - a commodity. Apple has placed their product above it all via high price, and it appears they own the "cool" niche. Customers expect innovation and will reward cost-effective results with a purchase. It sounds like you're trying to make a soap opera out of this!

patchrhythm
patchrhythm

I only buy gaming laptops. If it can't run my games, then it's garbage. The power that's required to run my games, will power everything else that I do, including work and college.

bigjude
bigjude

It's 11 pm here in New Zealand and I'm prone in bed with one of those little TV dinner tray things on my chest and a Toshiba Satellite sitting on top of it and I'm putting together a high quality international magazine. Just picture it. A weird old woman touchtyping on a laptop on her wrinkled bosom. I've had much smaller laptops, I've had Macs with huge screens, I have a Android tablet which I never use, I once even had a Psion 5. And you know, I don't really give a hoot what I use as long as it works, is portable enough for a geriatric to lug around, connects with my printer through my wireless network so I can proof things and runs all the software that I own and need. And would you believe it, a conventional three year old Satellite laptop does all those things for me running on Windows XP with 2 gig of RAM. True, I'm still using Adobe CS3, but that also does everything I need. The rest of it is just rampant consumerism.

Albert Myles
Albert Myles

I guess, for me, it is necessary to look at this situation from a bigger perspective. Jason, you(and others across the Web) complained that from the major vendors, you can't really tell much of a difference from the Macbook Air. Honestly, is this new? Look at a Dell laptop and an HP laptop from across the room. There will rarely be anything that will tell you which is which. This has been the case for a while. So why act like this is so new? Its not. When is the last time Dell, HP or Acer came to the table with something different? At this point in the game it is all about tweaking existing designs. Even as nice as the Macbook Air is, its really just a very well though out thin and light laptop. Apple just led the way...again. :) Don't make these vendors out to be something they aren't. Leave the innovation to the companies that are good at it.

pfyearwood
pfyearwood

I recently bought a marked-down netbook demo from an office supply chain. It has an N450 Atom and it gets very warm. The VGA port almost acts like a radiator or heat sink. How good is the heat dissipation in an ultra laptop? How is the heat handled so the components are not damaged? This article tells about all the planned goodies. How about not setting your pants on fire when the laptop is used as its name implies: on your lap? Paul

rhon
rhon

All those ultra-books are simply knockoffs from the Macbook air. It took them 4 years and a big bribe from Intel to respond. An industry that has a response time like this and need to be bribed to attack Apple is almost dead in the water. The latest marketshare figures tell the whole story. Never ever since the early 1980's was Apple market leader measured in market share. Intel must be desperate now Apple looks to shift to AMD. Intel takes a page out of the Microsoft book. Stifle competition and let every supplier offer precisely the same. if Microsoft is big brother, Intel is the the Animal farm. Soon every one has a great choice. A Ultra-book in the color grey or another Ultra in another color grey.

phil
phil

I think the major reason we are seeing this push is that not much money was being made with netbooks: ultrabooks are just a push to increase profit margins on every unit sold. I would be happy to be proved wrong of course: if you own an ultrabook: what does it give you that a laptop does not?

Trafficcop
Trafficcop

I read at least eight different articles in various and unrelated publications or online newsletters in which all the authors or bloggers stated the same thing. Ultrabook , despite what their purported innovative features may claim to be, is nothing more than a concept gone awry. Each of the authors also noted, as Jason does too, that none of the features that are supposed to be implemented are even ready to go forward. Some authors were more detailed in their analysis, but the point was still the same; Ultrabooks are not going to be the be all end all of computing now, nor will it be in the future. If it was juust Mr. Hiner alone thinking out loud I could see that some readers maybe biased. Conversely how biased can he be if many other experts and industry analysts are saying the same things. I think Jason does a great job of providing insightful commentary. Me, I do not agree with everything Mr. Hiner writes, but here is an example of his providing commentary that mirrors many others in the industry so to those readers who may have an opinion contrary to Mr. Hiner's, my kudos to you for exercising your first amendment rights, but please give Jason his due as his job is not to be an arbiter of popular opinion, only what can be derived from the evidence.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Is it just a netbook with more power?

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

I'm all in favour of lightweight laptops but I don't understand this fetish for ultrathin laptops that are so thin they can't accommodate an optical disc drive. I don't want to have to carry around two devices (laptop + external optical drive) when one will do. I also don't want to sacrifice robustness for style and it's a simple physical fact that it's easier to break something that's very thin than something that's thick. Have you tried sitting on a Macbook Air? Finally there's the upgrade/service aspect: the more tightly you pack things in, the more difficult it is to get at parts that need replacing for either repair or upgrading. Try working on a modern car with a transverse engine and front wheel drive and compare it with a 1950s model with an equivalent sized engine driving the back wheels. Yes, the modern car is more compact and sleeker but far more difficult to work on. Practicality is what I want from a laptop and I shall not be buying an ultrabook.

adornoe
adornoe

because, whatever new technology comes out, will replace the old, eventually, and that's the same with Apple and Windows-based PCs, because, the technology inside is basically the same. A tech product purchased today, will be obsolete next week, and it doesn't matter who is the manufacturer. But, in fact, with the Apple fan-base, obsolescence occurs much quicker, because, those people don't want to be caught with old or obsolete technology as soon as Apple creates a new release of their older i"Thingy". It's the nature of the Apple faithful. The same can't be said of the Wintel faithful, because, there is no such thing as religious attachment to any PC brand out there.

gadgetlover
gadgetlover

I do have a Toshba Ultrabook with the latest Core i processor. Not only does it weigh significantly less than my old "bricks", but it outperforms them as well. After carrying around the Toshiba for awhile, the old "Bricks" do actually seem like bricks, and with the SSD, the new Toshiba boots quickly, and has near instantaneous wake from sleep. Purchased it when first available. It was on sale a couple of weeks later for one week, and received a price match refund for the difference. Final cost about $300 less than cheapest Air yet has more memory, bigger SSD, weighs about the same, and is a joy to use. Style is of course a personal thing, but for me, the whole "silver" look since the PowerBook G4 is getting old looking. Have used Toshiba products for years. They have been reliable, stable, and met my needs well. My old Toshiba laptops have give longer, better service than my old Apple laptops although your mileage may vary. Unless you are editing video, or performing intensive PS filters (which if you were, you would not be using 2 to 5 year old laptops), the Ultrabook may be a great match for your tasks, and eliminate the need for a Chiropractor at the end of the day.

adornoe
adornoe

be a lot more relevant than any MacOS, and that relevance will still be around 90% MS vs 10% or less for Macs.

danbi
danbi

Let's see.. Went to dynamism.com and selected an Samsung Series 9 model (there is apparently error in their site, that lists all models as 13" with the same price, I assume the cheaper one is actually an 11" model). Then tried to match models: 11" Samsung: $1299 buys you an 1.4GHz i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD. Apple: $1199 buys you an 1.6GHz i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD. Apple is already $100 cheaper here! 13" Samsung: $1399 buys you an 1.4GHz CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. Apple: $1299 buys you an 1.7GHz CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. Apple again $100 cheaper. In both cases with the Apple Macbook Air you get more powerful processor. In the case of the 13" model you also get higher resolution display. In both cases you get Thunderbolt, a significant difference. One can argue about the HDMI port, and the Ethernet port in the Samsung offering. In a portable computer, what these ports do most of the time is to both consume power from the batter and occupy precious space, that could otherwise be used for larger battery. For the $100 difference, you can buy adapters that will provide these ports and many other types of ports. You will still have more CPU and Thunderbolt as bonus. When you are late to market, you need to provide either better offering at the same price or the same offering at lower price. Otherwise, you only wasted your efforts.

danbi
danbi

Following your line of thinking, this will only increase the sales of the Macbook Air even more. Notebook users will see what is delivered on the promise by Intel for a bright future, where they can buy something better than the Macbook Air, at lower price.. and in the absence of such product will follow the Apple route. Too bad for Microsoft, who in the end lose from each Apple sale.

techrepublic
techrepublic

How is it that you have a tray and a laptop sitting on your chest if you are prone? Don't you mean laying in a supine position (ie on your back)? It's OK I like weird old Kiwi women though. Laying supine here in OZ with my keyboard on my chest. Other than that I concur. If it works, use it. I use a little Toshiba Satellite 13" laptop for lots of things. It doesn't even have a built-in optical drive. It looks nothing like a MacBook and I don't want one.

pikeman666
pikeman666

My laptop is an old Toshiba with a dual-core 1.6 ghz CPU! It's a dino, but durable as a brick. It does exactly what I need. If ultrabook is the answer, what was the question? Pete

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

Haha...."Apple led the way again" If Apple is such a leader why is their market share so small.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

An Ultrabook is smaller and lighter. Isn't that enough? People don't want "functionality". They want small and cheap, and the ability to play games and watch movies. All technology ultimately tends toward entertainment. Do you really think that the majority of portable-computer owners actually carry around their machines to get real work done? (Notice I said "majority".)

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

I have one big problem with your argument. You call Jason Hiner and the other "Blogger's" experts. None of them are experts except for writing articles to make a living. I don't trust any of the information they let flow.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

might have a full-size display, too... whoop de doo.

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

I see your point, but I almost never use an optical disk, it is almost obsolete for me. After the initial OS installation, which I am happy to use an external USB optical drive for, I put the drive away and everything else come via the network or USB memory sticks. I have several external optical drives from long dead laptops that have only ever had a single usage in my drawer. For me its prefereable to have a lighter laptop or larger battery than a drive that I will never use.

gadgetlover
gadgetlover

Since ultra slim notebooks are no longer a niche market, you can buy from many retailers, not just the specialty, "hard to find products" retailers who usually charge suggested retail sometimes with a premium. Current version, Apple products are usually not discounted although starting to see that happen. Other current version slim notebooks can usually be purchased at a discount. As others have noted, Apple did not invent the slim, low weight laptop, they have existed for many years before Air was introduced. Apple put their usual "stamp" on it, and followed the same successful mainstream advertising campaign with the Air as with the iPod, iPhone, and now iPad. Prior slim notebooks were not advertised in the mainstream, usually just in tech, or vertical market publications.

patchrhythm
patchrhythm

Who you calling a kid? Plenty of adults who play games. You suck.

Komplex
Komplex

Apple doesn't play the enterprise market games. Apple avoided turning their products into commodities. Dell, HP, etc, took the marketing strategy of selling their products to people who don't use them - Corporate Purchasing departments. And their retail strategy was based on price and "it's the same as the one in your office." Apple sells directly to those who use their computers. That's why apple dominates in consumer driven market segments, the mp3 players, the smart-phones and the tablet.

mckinnej
mckinnej

Because they cost too much for one thing. Plus, there is the Windows monopoly and all the baggage that comes with it. It alone presents such a formidable obstacle that even free operating systems struggle to find market share. It's like trying to introduce a new fuel for automobiles, which is nearly impossible. (Disclaimer: I'm not an Apple or MS fanboi. I prefer Linux.)

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

Exactly. The Ipad makes your point for you. The people that buy them buy them for play toys. So they can surf the internet and watch movies and try to show everyone how insightful they are. Isn't that cool? Mindless Baboons.

phil
phil

They may be smaller but they are not cheaper! If people wanted cheap they would go with a netbook.

RickAz1
RickAz1

If you mean 'more power' as in a fully functional PC, then yes. A LITTLE more than a full size display. The NetBook, in my opinion, was a step up from a Tablet (minus the interface). It is just ridiculous to think that you can 'work' on a Tablet, if there is a job out there I'd like to apply for it... The NetBook; at least you have the external keyboard, memory, and a little power to do something with. Don't get me wrong, I still would not mistake it for a 'work' PC.

mckinnej
mckinnej

The displays tend to be slightly larger than netbooks. Most netbooks had a roughly 10 inch display. Ultrabooks seem to have two varieties, 11 inch and 13 inch displays. The resolutions seem to be more "standard" than netbooks. Netbooks had some rather odd resolutions, vertical in particular, which didn't always play well with applications and even web pages. The real defining attribute for Ultrabooks is their thickness. They are super thin compared to netbooks and especially standard laptops. Other than that they are really just evolutionary improvements on the netbook. (Which I happen to like a lot. My netbook has made my work and personal travel much easier, well lighter anyway. :)

danbi
danbi

Ever tried using any laptop in a moving vehicle, such as bus? If you did and was unhappy, then you can use an tablet in such places -- you will hold it comfortable and do real work - or just use it for fun - a legitimate use of an computer, btw.

Tigger_Two
Tigger_Two

I bought my iPad because I can't see the display on my smartphone as clearly as I would like when I am doing things like reading email, monitoring a forum, updating docs in the cloud, and similar. I no longer have the ability physically- I'm old and disabled- to drag a laptop or even net book around. I am able to put an iPad in my purse and carry it any time I am away from home. I can use "wasted time"- like the 45 minutes in the doc's waiting room- to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. I'm thinking that an Air may well be my next tech purchase... but that is in the future. iPad currently provides for my needs when on the go. Highly general statements are rarely, if ever, correct. In fact, they can be hauntingly incorrect and, on a bad day, offensive.

v r
v r

My netbook (HP Mini 5100) has been a reliable, portable workhorse for 2 1/2 years. Now that I a need greater speed and capacity, I have been thinking about moving to Mac Air. I am willing to learn Apple apps if necessary. Any recommendations?

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