Intel: Ultrabook is not a sign it failed in tablets

Intel has announced a new concept for thin notebooks with which it hopes to reinvent the PC

Intel's proposal of a new class of laptop, the Ultrabook, isn't an admission that it is losing the battle to put its microprocessors in tablets, according to a company executive.

"We are late. Today there are many tablets that do not have Intel inside. But we are putting a lot of effort to cash in," said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group.

Intel announced the Ultrabook series on Tuesday at Taipei's Computex trade show. The devices are meant to combine the faster processing speeds of PCs with the thin and light designs of tablets.

Ultrabooks will be less than 20 millimeters (0.8 inches) thick and Intel is working with manufacturers to get a first wave of the devices out by the holiday shopping season at the end of the year priced under US$1,000, the company said Tuesday. Asus said Tuesday that an Ultrabook dubbed the UX21 will be out by the end of the year.

Subsequent ultrabooks will be based on upcoming processors code-named Ivy Bridge, to be released next year, and Haswell, to be released in 2013. Though the first ultrabooks due out on the market do not appear to offer specifications much different than current laptops, the low power consumption of Haswell chips will allow for even slimmer designs and longer battery life, Intel said.

Intel has high hopes for Ultrabooks: it expects they will account for 40 percent of consumer laptop sales by the end of next year.

But the company is also trying to grab a bigger share of the tablet market. Currently most of those devices use chips designed by Intel's rival, ARM Holdings, because ARM's designs are considered more power efficient. Unlike Intel, ARM doesn't make chips itself, but licenses its processor core designs to other manufacturers for incorporation in their own products.

ARM could also pose a threat to Intel's core business in the PC market. On Monday, ARM predicted more than half of all tablets, mini-notebooks and other mobile PCs sold in 2015 will use the company's processors.

During an interview with the press, Eden emphasized that Intel was not admitting failure in the tablet market by introducing the Ultrabook, and pointed to the company's efforts to develop its own microprocessors designed for low-power devices such as tablets. In April, Intel announced its new Atom processor, known as Oak Trail, which Intel expects will be used in 35 tablet designs.

"We always take our competition seriously," Eden said, adding that he believes Intel will win out in the end because it has more advanced processors. "ARM technology will try to go up into the notebook space. We will try to go down into their space. Let the best one win."

Intel's announcement of the Ultrabook also does not mean the company is shifting its attention away from netbooks, according to Erik Reid, general manager for Intel's mobile platform division.

"We absolutely believe in the netbook category," he said, adding that Intel will announce new innovations for Netbooks on Wednesday at Computex. Intel also wants to bring the price of netbooks down to $199, Reid said.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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