The Ultrabook Era: Intel's Pledge To Make PCs Cool Again


Amid a backdrop of research numbers suggesting smartphones and tablets are the undisputed kings of today's computing arena, Intel is holding firmly to its PC-centric roots and still aiming aggressively to place Ultrabooks at the top of consumers' wish lists.

According to Karen Regis, director of Ultrabook marketing within Intel's PC Client group, the next wave of Ultrabooks slated to launch in 2013 will outshine their predecessors, touting Windows 8, Intel's fourth-generation Haswell processors, and new capabilities for touch and voice activation. But it's the convertible Ultrabooks -- meaning those that can be used in either traditional clamshell or tablet form factor -- that ultimately will capture consumers' attention and revitalize the PC market, she said.

"The PC is a must-have device. People still have to buy PCs to do the many things they have to do," Regis told CRN during an interview at this week's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. "So I think if we can offer something to a consumer that is saying 'I don’t know whether to get this device or that one' … if we can make a convertible that offers some of the stuff that they might be looking for in a tablet, but still has full PC functionality, then I think they'll buy it."

 

[Related: Intel To Tackle Big Data With New Xeon Processors, Integrated Fabrics]

Intel showcased a number of upcoming convertibles during Tuesday's opening Intel Developer Forum sessions. Perhaps the most unique was Dell's new XPS Duo 12 convertible, a Windows 8-equipped Ultrabook that can be used as a traditional notebook PC or as a tablet by rotating its top lid, which is detachable from the bezel frame, and closing the clamshell. OEMs including Asus and Hewlett-Packard also have unveiled hybrid devices, with others including Lenovo readying them for later this year.

Intel's faith in the PC market contrasts sharply with industry numbers. According to research firm Gartner, worldwide PC sales are down 0.1 percent in 2012 vs. 2011, and down 5.7 percent in the U.S. It was the seventh consecutive quarter in which the PC market saw flat to single-digit growth.

Intel itself has taken a hit from this stalled momentum. In its second-quarter earnings announcement in July, the Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker reported a 4 percent year-on-year drop in net income to $2.8 billion. Last week, Intel warned investors that its third quarter isn't looking any rosier; a continually sluggish PC market is again projected to yield weaker-than-expected sales.

Still, Regis said Intel is sticking to its original projection of Ultrabooks accounting for nearly 40 percent of all PC sales by the end of the year.

"Nothing has changed in the last couple of months," Regis said of the 40 percent goal, declining to drill down any further into numbers. "Intel sets aggressive targets, always. You'll never see us with a wimpy target."

NEXT: Lower Price Points To Boost Ultrabook Sales