New Intel Ultrabook Reference Models Could Undercut MacBook Air Significantly

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When Intel launched its Ultrabook initiative, we were excited: a full-on PC notebook the size of a MacBook Air? Promises of Adamos and Series 9s danced before our eyes, sexy but overpriced. Could this new spec be the one that makes our Air-toting friends jealous?

Unfortunately, few ultrabooks have surfaced, and those that have aren’t really competing pricewise. And just today we hear that Apple is hogging all the aluminum, so people are going to make their notebooks out of fiberglass. Fiberglass!

Don’t fret: Intel is on the case, and everything will be all right.

Intel understands that ODMs absolutely have to get prices under a thousand bucks if they want to compete. Digitimes reports that they’re calling a meeting next week in order to discuss a few new standard bills of material totalling a very reasonable $500-700, and if they’re smart, using components that manufacturers can actually get their hands on.

There haven’t been any teardowns part-by-part cost breakdowns of the latest MacBook Airs, but the previous generation was estimated to have a BOM of somewhat above $700, and as the updates have been fairly minor (new processor, Thunderbolt), that’s probably still a good estimate.

Intel is aiming at 18mm notebooks and 21mm-thick (for 11-13″ and 14-17″ screens respectively) designs with room to upgrade to their latest processors when the time comes. No optical drive, either, which is arguably more of a jump for Windows users than Mac Users. Both would, depending on options, fall at most at ~700, which with a 25% margin and room for assembly and shipping, puts you nicely at a thousand bucks. And that’s at the high end.

When we’ll actually see these designs is a mystery; I’d guess the first ones to make it to Best Buy shelves will be Ivy Bridge models in early 2012. Hopefully we’ll hear more from the companies themselves by then.