Has Intel found the Ultrabook pricing sweet spot at $699?

Summary:Intel executives mentioned $699 as a price tag for upcoming Ultrabooks. Can that seal the deal against the MacBook Air?

Intel might have finally pinpointed a lower and sufficient price tag for its Ultrabooks that could lure customers away from the primary competitor in this market: Apple's MacBook Air.

During the second quarter earnings call with investors on Tuesday, CEO Paul Otellini said that "we are very confident that we'll see $699 systems at retail this fall."

When the Ultrabook concept was first introduced with the promise of more than 60 designs in the pipeline, the general average price was $999. That's a fairly good deal for the form factor and processing power offered within many of those designs.

However, let's face it. With the MacBook Air also starting at $999, the competition for Intel and its Ultrabook partner ecosystem was going to be incredibly fierce.

But at $699? Now you're putting a fully-fledged, powerful computing machine at an incredibly low price point and even in the same pricing realm as tablets. Otellini also specified that at least more than 40 of the approximately 140 Ivy Bridge-based Ultrabooks in the pipeline will be touch-enabled with another dozen released as convertibles. Thus, at least some of those could steal away tablet sales.

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Anyone wavering between a MacBook Air and an Ultrabook for just minimal reasons could easily be swayed over to the Ultrabook thanks to that very budget-friendly compromise.

A big roadblock still might just be the loyalty of Mac customers. Personally, I own a MacBook Pro, and the next time I buy a computer (likely within the next year), it would be an Air -- for a few different reasons. At $999, the 11-inch MacBook Air offers everything I need in a much tidier, smaller and very attractive package. Plus, I just happen to prefer the Mac OS X interface, and it syncs seamlessly with my iOS products.

But $999 is still a lot of money -- especially when you take into account that you could possibly get roughly the same product for $699. It almost seems silly to even to stop and think why you would spend the extra $300.

Yet it's a lot like how camera aficionados love their Leicas. They're beautiful products with high-quality results, and sometimes we're just willing to pay the extra money for a device that does the job well but is more aesthetically pleasing.

Nevertheless, certainly not all consumers care about specifically getting a Mac computer that badly. A severe difference in pricing could really do the trick for Intel and friends -- as could the Windows 8 release.

Additionally, a fall release for lower-priced Ultrabooks would put them in prime position to take over the rest of the back-to-school season and into holiday shopping. Intel executives tried to dissuade analyst and investor fears during the call yesterday, arguing based on a pattern they've seen over the last 20 years that second half of the year sales tend to leap ahead of the first half.

Cheaper Ultrabooks would certainly help.

Topics: Intel, Hardware, Laptops

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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