Ultrabooks: PC Makers Copying the MacBook Air

Personal computer manufacturers had a rough time luring users to their big clunky desktops after users have spent time with smartphones and computer tablets. We watched as hardware manufacturer Hewlett-Packard basically gave up and pundits repeatedly asked the question, "Is the PC Dead?"

While manufacturers like HP, Intel and Microsoft seemed to mull this over, they also saw Apple's MacBook Air sales jump 26 percent in September year-over-year in a market which basically told them to scrap all PC plans. So PC makers have decided to emulate the MacBook Air with a quick boot-up, long-lasting battery and light design.

"Consumers have had experience with tablets and features like instant-on, thin and light, and good battery life," said Jeff Barney, a vice president at Toshiba told the Wall Street Journal. "They're looking for the Ultrabook experience because they have had a tablet."

Global mobile computing has risen dramatically and expected to further heighten to 103 million units in 2012 (63 percent), according to Gartner Inc. PC shipments, on the other hand, are only expected to move 370 million units (up 4.5 percent).

The numbers can be deceptive. While 4.5 percent seems much smaller than 63 percent, realize that the tablet computer is relatively new and hasn't reached saturation point. PCs, however, have reached that point and are now only being replaced, upgraded or bought for new businesses. To us, it seems as if the PC market is still very much alive

However, most PC manufacturers have been doing little to make themselves stand out. Tablets such as the iPad 2, have amazing battery life and none of the yawn-inducing computer start-up time. HP, Microsoft, Toshiba and others should have been innovating hardware rather than cranking out the same old garbage. Add that the MacBook Air is slender and light -- how tablet-like! -- and it makes more sense than ever to follow a manufacturer that might be giving the public what it wants.

And so now we have the Ultrabooks, the new slender, fast-booting computers from HP, Dell, Toshiba, Asustek, Lenovo and others, basically spearheaded by chip-maker Intel, debuting at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

Prices are expected to range from $699 to $1,499 for the new laptops. But consumers should also remember that Intel was behind the "Netbook" rage a few years ago, where it promoted the heck out of tiny laptops with little computing power. It didn't understand that most people wanted computing power and mobility. That seems obvious now, but at the time in 2008, it seemed almost sacrilegious. Who would possibly want a tiny machine with computing power? Apparently anyone with a smartphone or tablet.
Perhaps this will be a game-changer for hardware manufacturers, or it may be just another tactic by Intel to sell a few more chips.
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