Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

Summary: In a keynote speech at the Computex trade show in Taiwan, Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney said the company would borrow some "new ideas" from tablets to reinvent the PC, carving out a new category of laptops dubbed ultrabooks. Maloney also discussed Intel's progress with its own chips for tablets and smartphones.

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In a keynote speech at the Computex trade show in Taiwan, Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney said the company would borrow some "new ideas" from tablets to reinvent the PC, carving out a new category of laptops dubbed ultrabooks. Maloney also discussed Intel's progress with its own chips for tablets and smartphones. He demonstrated a Medfield tablet running Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, for the first time and said the first devices based on the 32nm SoC will be available in six to nine months.

The ultrabook is essentially a very thin ultraportable with a mainstream price. The first ultrabooks, which will be available later this year, will be based on Intel's second-generation Core processors (Sandy Bridge), measure less than 0.8 inches thick and cost less than $1,000. The size, performance and features of these ultrabooks will evolve over the next two to three years as Intel introduces new processor technology. In particular, Intel plans to introduce features that will make laptops more responsive--much like smartphones and tablets--and more secure.

"We need to find new ways to generate excitement around the PC," Maloney said.

The CEO of Asustek, Jonney Shih, came onstage to show one of the first ultrabooks. The Asus UX Series is an 11.6-inch laptop with an aluminum unibody design that measures only 0.67 inches at it thickest point but includes a second-generation Core processor. I got a closer look at the Asus UX at an Intel press event later in the day and the design looks great, but it is tough to say much more about it at this point since Intel was not allowing anyone to touch the notebook.

To illustrate how Intel plans to make notebooks, including ultrabooks, more responsive, Maloney demonstrated two features that he said will "be available in the market really soon." The first, Intel Smart Connect, lets your laptop receive system and application updates when it is in suspend. To do this, Smart Connect periodically wakes up your laptop, checks for updates and then puts it back to sleep. The second feature, Intel Rapid Start, uses a flash memory cache to store the system state so that it can recover from hibernation in about five to six seconds. This is useful because a system on standby only lasts about two to three days while one in hibernation has a battery life of 30 days, he said.

These will be useful features, but it doesn't appear that they are exclusive to ultrabooks. In fact, Maloney noted that "the beauty of these features is we don't have to wait, they can be deployed on PCs with Windows 7 now."

On paper, the ultrabook sounds a lot like the CULV laptops that Intel introduced in 2009. These never really caught on because the ultra-low voltage processors compromised performance but systems were still priced much higher than netbooks. This time Intel is promising that ultrabooks will be "no-compromise" notebooks thanks to its process technology. Next year Intel will introduce its first 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, which will increase battery life, improve performance and boost security. Maloney said that by the end of 2012 ultrabooks will account for 40 percent of all consumer laptops. But the real breakthrough, he said, will occur in 2013 with the release of Haswell, a new microarchitecture that will cut the thermal design point in half (from 35 watts to 15 watts) reinventing the laptop PC.

Maloney also talked about Intel's efforts to get into other mobile devices. Cedar Trail, Intel's first 32nm netbook platform, will be used in systems running Windows, Google's Chrome OS and MeeGo. These netbooks will have more than 10 hours of battery life and will include Rapid Start, Smart Connect, Intel Wireless Display for displaying content on TVs (with a separate adapter) and PC Synch, which wirelessly synchronizes documents and media cross multiple devices.

For tablets, Maloney described the Atom Z670 platform (aka Oak Trail), which has been shipping since April, as a sort of stopgap solution. Intel has 35 design wins and it displayed several of them on the stage. But Medfield is really Intel's first Atom SoC platform that was "purpose-built" specifically for tablets and smartphones, Maloney said. Intel said that tablets based on Medfield will be less than 9mm thick and weigh less than 1.5 pounds. For comparison, Apple's iPad 2 is 8.8mm thick and weighs 1.4 pounds.

Topics: Intel, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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19 comments
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  • Intel unveiled Apple's concept for MacBook Air from 2008; it is good to ...

    hear that the industry will move to that direction, but I am not sure that this concept needed be presented anew another time since it already existed.
    DDERSSS
    • Pretty transparent

      @denisrs

      Intel is obviously trying to find "new" markets for their high margin CPUs. My guess is that AMD will get most of the sales in this "thin and light but better than Atom" category with their new lines of Fusion processors. These notebooks may cost half of what Intel will charge, but be good enough for most users.
      Economister
  • Achilles heel: Windows

    The stuff about "more responsive" is just nonsense. Windows is far slower than iOS, Android or WebOS, nothing Intel can do will change that. And the last thing I want is for my laptop to wake itself up whenever it feels like it, there are so many bugs in today's BIOS and Windows systems that it could do any of several things, like corrupt the hard drive, fail to turn itself off and run down the battery, or even cook itself inside your backpack or laptop bag.

    Then you have the infamous Windows bloat to deal with, driving storage costs (RAM and SSD). If laptops truly want to compete with iPad, they need to dump Windows, there is just no other way.
    terry flores
    • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

      @terry flores You can't seriously be suggesting the iPad is an alternative for a real computer? Any serious use of computing cannot be done on an iPad. If apple really thought the iPad would replace computers, they'd stop making computers.

      One of the reasons you have windows bloat is that it tries to run everything and be compatible with everything. Sure, windows annoys the hell out of me, but it's a trade off. If I want to run Flash for instance, I won't be doing it on an IPad, but if I want to edit graphics, I'll be doing it on a Mac. If I want to set up a quick web server, I'll be doing a LAMP. All OSs have a use if you're willing to be unbiased.
      WriterOfCode
      • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

        @WriterOfCode ...By using Virtual desktop interfaces the ipad can easily run the latest and greatest business productivity apps and you still get the low price and instant on benefit...this is true for any underpowered device (smartphone, chromebook, tablet, etc)
        bill.mcintyre
      • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

        @WriterOfCode Bullseye! Somebody who gets it!
        Get-Smart
      • Which is all very well and good... Until...

        @bill.mcintyre
        ...you get to a spot where you have NO connectivity. Then what are you gonna do with your underpowered paperweight? I'd be expecting you to be quite S.O.L. right about then...
        Wolfie2K3
    • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

      @terry flores - if you knew what you were talking about you'd know that any system that can have a multitude of hardware always ends up having wake issues, ntm the more software you have running in the background the more issues you'll run into. How is "windows bloat" driving storage costs? LOL :P
      My girlfriend bought a $400 acer and the thing is far more powerful than the ipad will be for years and years, and the thing boots, goes into standby, hibernates without any issues at all... OMG!
      You might have had some people more or less convinced till you got to the "If laptops truly want to compete with iPad, they need to dump Windows, there is just no other way." part, saying absolutely there is no other way just makes you look ignorant.
      sinephase
  • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

    Another fine example on how to waste your time!!
    X41
    • Yup

      @X41

      and you still keep doing it. Slow learner?
      Economister
      • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

        @Economister I agree. he has nothing else to say, ZDNet should do something to block this guy (and hope hes dumb enough not to create a new account) :)
        PriMinister
  • Copying the MacBook Air

    Which means this isn't much news.
    ScorpioBlue
  • Since when did the Mac Book Air

    Get Sandy Bridge processors, you Apple guys are sooooo funny when you suspect a Windows box is coming that might be a threat....I have a Mac Book Pro with a dual core that is no where near as fast as my Windows laptop with the same basic specs and I like them both for different reasons.
    sy34010
    • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

      @sy34010

      Please list the two items specifically, so your (bogus) claims can be examined.
      DeusXMachina
  • Are Apple people illiterate?

    First of all, INTEL can't copy the Macbook, INTEL MADE ALL THE PROCESSORS FOR THE MACBOOK. The Core2Duo is a fine chip, and I like the Macbook Air. However, if Intel says they can run a newer faster more feature rich processor than currently available in the Macbook Pro in the form factor of the Macbook Air, that's really some awesome engineering. What's really impressive, is that the Apple people figured out a way to make it all about them, when Apple will probably just as excited as everyone else about the new chips.
    tkejlboom
    • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

      @tkejlboom

      You usual, shallow analysis. Intel was not only discussing the new direction of their chips and fabs, they were discussing their upcoming reference platform, a reference platform oddly reminiscent enough of the macbook air that it would not be a stretch to believe that it was all-but wholly copied therefrom.
      DeusXMachina
  • Thanks to the iPad

    It took something as drastic as the iPad to wake up all these sleeping companies from their slumber. So far none of them have tried to open-up with something completely new. Intel is so wedded with Microsoft that they are following Microsoft's lead by sticking to the old tried and true bread and butter. I don't believe it's not completely them playing conservatively and sticking to what's worked in the past, I believe it's more a "why mess with our cash flow" approach.
    camcost@...
    • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

      @camcost@...

      "I don't believe it's not completely them playing conservatively and sticking to what's worked in the past, I believe it's more a "why mess with our cash flow" approach."

      Um, you just said the same thing twice.
      DeusXMachina
  • RE: Computex 2011: Intel unveils ultrabook, talks Medfield tablets

    Computers will get smaller and faster ... like they always did for the last 60 or so years.
    But fear not! Software folks will find ways to slow them down ... like they always did.
    Scrabbler