Intel Readies Ultrabook Blitz, But Questions Loom

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Besides pricing and specifications, there's also a key question as to whether or not Ultrabooks are right for the enterprise. At first glance, the sleek and ultra-thin designs seem more targeted toward consumers who want an attractive mobile device – i.e., the Apple crowd. But that's now how Intel sees it.

"There's been a perception that Ultrabooks are for consumers only," Lakshmanan said."But we see them appealing to commercial customers, too.

Several vendors have already taken aim at the commercial market with enterprise Ultrabooks. For example, HP introduced the Folio 13 as the industry's "first business Ultrabook," touting features like embedded security and an optional USB 2.0 dock for a desktop-like environment.

Dell also introduced a business-class Ultrabook during CES; Dell Vice Chairman Jeff Clarke joined Otellini on stage during the Intel keynote to introduce the XPS 13, a 13.3-inch Ultrabook priced as $999 and poised as both a consumer and commercial customers. "It's defining what this category is all about," Clarke said during the event. "It will set a new level of expectation."

Clarke also said the XPS 13 Ultrabook would be "enterprise ready" for corporate clients. But Dell's enterprise-friendly features include somewhat standard items like Trusted Platform Module integration for Bitlocker Data Encryption and configuration services like custom imaging and asset tagging. There's little that distinguishes a business Ultrabook from a consumer Ultrabook at this early stage, and that can partially be attributed to the consumerization of IT and the blurring of the line between commercial and consumer markets.

But Lakshmanan additional enterprise features will be coming in this year's crop of Ultrabooks, such as Intel's vPro for remote PC access and management and enhanced graphics for videoconferencing functions.
"I do see the Ultrabook penetrating the enterprise space," Ledterman said, "but there are some challenges beyond the storage capacity and disc drives."

Ledterman sees Ultrabooks as a good fit for higher-level executives and salespeople that spend much of their time on the road. But what about employees who spend most of their time at their desk? Ultrabooks are designed to be mobile and don't have the underside notebook locks or docking stations to serve as desktop replacements.

But that may be coming, too. Greg Wood, vice president of global sales at Kensington, sees growing demand for Ultrabooks and, in general, lighter and thinner laptops that are easier to carry and more aesthetically pleasing. Wood believes the trend will soon become the norm, and that has changed Kensington's whole approach to physical security for notebooks. "If you look at an Ultrabook, they don't have those underside notebook locks," he said. "We're working on some things that will address that issue. As the platform changes from big, clunky laptops to ultra-thin notebooks, we're going to be there."

The Ultrabook is less than a year old and clearly a work in progress. But Intel is clearly putting muscle behind the movement -- Kevin Sellers, vice president of Intel's Sales and Marketing Group, said during the chip maker's CES press conference that Ultrabooks will benefit from Intel's biggest ad campaign since the Centrino push in 2003. And that may keep OEM partners invested in the model -- and prevent Ultrabooks from suffering the same fate as netbooks.

"I'm bullish about Ultrabooks because they're clearly different -- sleeker, nicer, and better-looking," Schmook said. "I think the Ultrabook movement is in its infancy, but when Intel gets into a market like this and really gets behind then they make it work."

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