Ultrabooks are supposed to be the PC’s answer to the MacBook Air . These notebooks are said to rock hardware platforms very similar to the Air’s but, you know, run Windows instead of OS X. The first crop from HP and Asus will likely hit during the fourth quarter of 2011 but won’t be Air-killers right away. They’re going to be too expensive.
Ultra-thin Window notebooks aren’t new. Dell produced the Adamo XPS and MSI, among others, have been selling notebooks just slightly thicker than the Air for years. These upcoming so-called ultrabooks are different, though. They’re built around an Intel platform specifically designed for Air-thin notebooks.
PC notebooks are supposed to be cheap. They’re supposed to cost less than comparable Mac notebooks even though their pricing often has nothing to do with Apple. PC notebook makers have been racing each other to the bottom. HP fights Dell. Toshiba battles Acer and Asus. Samsung goes at it with Sony. It’s intermarket warfare at its finest.
Then there’s Apple, lazily cruising along the high road, seemingly unwilling to join the plunge downmarket. It’s least expensive computer, now the base model MacBook Air, costs hundreds more than HP’s cheapest notebook and only features a fraction of the raw computing power. But the Air is thin. And light. And has amazing battery life, quick wake-up speeds and all the traits that make for a great portable, which is something that the bargain HP cannot say.
Intel threw PC makers a bone back in May when the chip maker unveiled the Ultrabook platform. Ultrabooks are supposed to be a PC MacBook Air with thin designs, tablet-like battery life, and enough power thanks to a 22nm Ivy Bridge processor. They are also supposed to cost less than the Air with a starting price under a $1000. Digitimes is reporting that last part isn’t going to hold true for the first batch. Unexpected low yields on key components are expected to cause Asus to price its first batch from $1,000 to $1,600. These models aren’t even built around the next-gen Ivy Bridge platform. Asus is using the current Sandy Bridge Core i5.
The higher prices might just slow the overall adaption of the Ultrabooks as the higher price will likely cause consumers and retailers to shy away. They are going to be a hard sale with a price tag well north of $1,000 to buyers who often shop by silly specs like processing speed and hard drive space.
Hopefully prices will come down and they will as long there’s a continued demand for the ultra-thin PC notebooks. During this early stage their best advertising will come from Apple. The average Best Buy shopper will no doubt gaze in wonderment at the Air. But then the shopper will eventually turn and wander back to the familiar world of Windows and cheap notebooks.