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75 New Ultrabooks, Starting at $699, On the Way
Posted April 12, 2012
75 New Ultrabooks, Starting at $699, On the Way
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By Barry Levine. Updated April 12, 2012 11:00AM

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The Ultrabook category will have 75 new models and a starting price of $699. That's the word from Intel, which created the category of lightweight, high-performance machines that, in many ways, present a Windows vision of Apple's MacBook Air.

On Wednesday, Kirk Skaugen, the Intel general manager for the PC Client group, told the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing that about 75 Ultrabooks, built around Ivy Bridge 3rd Generation Core, are now in development and expected to be released later this spring. To date, nearly two dozen Ultrabook models have been released.

Laptops Into Tablets

The new models, according to the chipmaker, will include hybrids that can switch from laptops to tablets with touchscreens. This would mesh completely with the new Windows 8, whose tile-based interface is optimized for touchable displays such as tablets, but which also will have a "classic Windows" interface for productivity apps that use physical keyboards.

One vision of that hybrid Ultrabook is Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga, a laptop that can flip into a tablet. It was shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Prices for Ultrabooks currently start at about $800, but the company indicated the $699 models will be available this summer, in time for the back-to-school buying season in the fall.

Intel has been the force behind the Ultrabook category, announced last spring. In addition to being light, high performing and affordable, the machines' characteristics include a long battery life, fast boot-up and a variety of security features.

The company has provided the R&D and Ultrabook specifications, created a $300 million Ultrabook Fund to invest in companies working on technologies for the category, and undertaken an advertising campaign that is said to be budgeted over $100 million. It is also creating special merchandising sections in brick-and-mortar stores to distinguish Ultrabooks from other laptops.

'A Lot of Sense'

Intel has also created reference models of Ultrabooks as guides for manufacturers, which feature, among other things, plastic casing that approaches the strength of more common metal cases, but is less expensive. A stamped aluminum sheet on top of the plastic provides a more premium-looking metallic finish.

Intel also wants Ultrabook makers to create a standard battery cell for the devices, using a design that is 16mm thick instead of the more standard 18mm version. A standardized thinner battery would meet Ultrabook specs, while reducing costs and making the battery more widely available.

Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said that "a lot of people" who might be interested in an Ultrabook "are waiting for Windows 8." He noted that the category itself "makes a lot of sense," given that many current processors "are powerful enough that even a lower-powered version can do all you want to do."

The "proof of the category," he said, is that "sales of the MacBook Air are doing very well."

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