IDF: Intel Executives Try To Build Buzz Around Ultrabooks

"The implications of Ultrabooks are huge," Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini said Monday in a keynote speech at IDF. "This is a transformation in computing and an expansion opportunity for Intel and developers."

Intel began promoting the Ultrabook concept in May at Computex in Taiwan. Intel has trademarked the term, which describes laptops that meet strict, Intel-defined specifications for form factor and performance. Ultrabooks must be thin, boot up quickly and support extended battery life at what Intel calls "mainstream prices" -- i.e. in the $1,000 range.

Ultrabooks are lighter, sleeker, more responsive and last longer on a single charge than conventional notebooks, Otellini said in his keynote. Acer, Toshiba and Lenovo unveiled Ultrabooks earlier this month, and more OEMs are expected to launch additional models this holiday season, he said.

Intel expects its transition to Ivy Bridge processors to accelerate the market trend of Ultrabooks in 2012, Otellini said. One generation beyond Ivy Bridge is Haswell, which will feature a further 30 percent reduction in standby power over notebooks currently on the market.

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But Haswell isn't just about low power consumption: Its system level power management framework could reduce overall power consumption by 20x, according to Otellini. "This means all day usage and more than 10 days of standby time," he said.

Ultrabooks are viewed by some industry analysts as Intel's bid to finally establish a foothold in a mobility space with which it has long flirted. Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder Nor-Tech, says Intel could see strong uptake for Ultrabooks despite an abundance of competing mobile devices already on the market.

"Intel is a little bit late to the party and they're playing catch-up to ARM in terms of power consumption and battery life," said Swank. "But smaller and faster is what customers are demanding, and as a reseller I could see Ultrabooks being very popular."

Intel is working with Microsoft on Ultrabooks as well as tablets. In a Q&A after his IDF keynote, Otellini was asked if Intel is concerned that Microsoft is showing demos of Windows 8 running on ARM this week at its Build conference in Anaheim, Calif.

"From my perspective, nothing has changed," Otellini responded. "This is an opportunity for us to go faster in places like tablets, and I think Microsoft could energize the tablet market. The value of legacy on the PC is pretty substantial, and I don't think end users will walk away from that."