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If This Interview Is Anything To Go By, Ultrabooks Are DOA

If This Interview Is Anything To Go By, Ultrabooks Are DOA

April 3, 2012
Intel is insane. At least, those in charge of the company's "Ultrabook" initiative seem to be. PCWorld's Melanie Pinola recently interviewed Intel product manager Anand Kajshmanan and media rep Alison Wesley, discussing the MacBook Air clones and their place in the PC market. Curiously, Intel says they established the Ultrabook to the be the "pinnacle of everything that users have come to expect from their computing device." When asked what exactly makes Ultrabooks stand out from the competition Apple's offerings, Intel explained:
[W]e did extensive research into what users' expectations were for their mobile computing devices, and there were four things that really stood out. Users want ultra-responsiveness in their devices (you turn it on and it just works, with no interruptions); the ability to take their devices everywhere, with great battery life and connectivity; devices that just look cool and feel great; and products they don't have to worry about when it comes to security.
Sound familiar? Or even more familiar? I don't know what kind of "research" Intel actually did (beyond buying a few MacBook Airs and an iPad or two), but this entire Ultrabook category is a hyped-up, misleading, copycat mess. Describing how Ultrabooks are actually different than the MacBook Air, Intel had this to say:
The MacBook Air is a great product, sure. It has the Intel Core processor, it's a great choice for someone who wants to invest in the Mac operating system, and it offers some of the things we talked about. But really, with the Ultrabook, it's about offering all those things in the same device--the great responsiveness, the great battery life--and with an operating system that people have come to love over the years, as well as all the legacy applications that they would like to run.
Hmm. Trying again, Intel hits upon price point as the difference maker:
[Ultrabooks] want to do all this at mainstream price points, which is where we think one of the biggest key differentiators is, and the biggest value that Intel can bring to this space. We can actually get the ecosystem to move to an extent [that it will] bring all of these great features in a laptop down to mainstream price points. ... We say "mainstream price points" rather than exact figures because it differs for every market and depends on your perspective. For example, [we were speaking with] a Korean businessperson at a trade show who said that $1000 was a very low price point for them. But $1000 might be high from your perspective, so we say "mainstream price point" to mean what the market will bear.
A thousand dollars? Really? Third time's the charm. Says Intel:
We fundamentally believe in the concept of touch, and touch on a clamshell. ... The Ultrabook offers an extremely unique value proposition. Every time we've done market research, consumers have told us, "We love touch, but don't touch our keyboards." Even for email, people prefer keyboards. There's no tactile feedback on touchscreens. The fact that you have content creation on Ultrabooks is a huge differentiator.
Sigh. Good luck, Intel. If this is your strategy to beat Apple in its own backyard, your Ultrabook is more doomed than Nintendo's portable future.

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