Intel Capital on Thursday said it plans to invest $300 million in OEM partners to help drive development of its Ultrabook mobile PC initiative.
The new Ultrabook Fund is slated to invest in hardware and software companies looking to develop the technologies needed to make its Ultrabook mobile PC a success, including user interface, all-day battery life, and improved storage capacity. Those investments are expected to happen over a three-year to four-year period, Intel said.
Intel in late May unveiled its Ultrabook mobile PC form factor during Taiwan's Computex exhibition.
The Ultrabook, which Intel envisions as a mobile device which combines the power of a notebook PC and convenience of a tablet PC, is being developed in three phases.
The first phase was the release earlier this year of new 2nd Generation Intel Core processors that will let mobile PC OEMs offer new mobile PCs with a thickness of under 0.8 inches. Intel expects such devices to be available by year-end.
The second phase is Intel’s planned release next year of its new “Ivy Bridge” processor family, which the company said will increase the power efficiency, visual performance, responsiveness, and security of mobile PCs. The third phase is Intel’s planned 2013 release of a new "Haswell” platform which the company said should cut power consumption by half compared to current processors.
Several ODMs (original design manufacturers) at Computex showed their initial versions of the Ultrabook including Asus, which unveiled its UX21.
Other long-term partners are interested in moving forward with the Ultrabook, including Lenovo, which Intel on Thursday identified as a partner in its Ultrabook initiative.
Industry reports also mention Hewlett-Packard as pushing to be one of the first major branded vendors to unveil Ultrabooks.
Erik Stromquist, COO of CTL, a Portland, Ore.-based custom system builder, said he and his company are very interested in seeing how Intel invests that $300 million Ultrabook Fund to push the development of an Ultrabook ecosystem.
"That's a big investment," Stromquist said. "I'm pleasantly shocked. It says a lot about what Intel plans to do. I'm hopeful, and I believe Intel will do something with the channel with its Ultrabook."
But not every Intel watcher is excited about the Ultrabook initiative.
Acer founder Stan Shih earlier this month called Ultrabooks and tablet PCs passing fads. He called on notebook PC makers to innovate beyond the Ultrabook and tablet to create more value-added products while telling them to learn from what Apple achieved with its iPad.
One custom system builder, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the Ultrabook initiative could be a difficult one for the mobile PC industry, especially given all the competition not only from tablet PCs like Apple's iPad but also from other mobile PC platforms like Nvidia's Tegra dual-core mobile processor, AMD's APU (accelerated processing unit) family of integrated processor and graphics capabilities, Apple's iPad, a Intel Atom, and a host of smart device families.
"There are too many different competing technologies for mobile computing," the system builder said. "So, as a consumer, how do I know which to buy? According to price? Whether it's a tablet or not?
Intel executives were not available to discuss further details about the plans. Many of them this week were in Taiwan briefing OEM and channel partners about plans for the new $300 million Ultrabook Fund, according to channel sources.
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