Ultrabooks have yet to take off, but Intel is already looking at ways to shave dollars off the cost of these thin and light devices.
Intel engineers have come up with a design that allows Ultrabook shells to be built using a plastic as opposed to the metal that has been used so far. This is a move that could cut anywhere between $25 and $75 from the price, reports Reuters.
The problem with Ultrabooks is that while Intel aspires for these devices to have a starting price in the region of $699, most will be priced at $1,000 and beyond, pushing them into the premium category and putting them in direct competition with hardware from Apple.
The Ultrabook concept is a solid idea, albeit a design mostly inspired by solid ideas that have come from Apple and its MacBook Air. Apple has proved that consumers like -- and are willing to pay for -- thin and light systems. The problem is that the MacBook Air starts at $999, and even with Apple's 30+ percent profit margin, that means that even the Cupertino giant would be hard pressed to deliver a MacBook Air in the $699 price bracket and still make much of a profit. And we're talking about Apple: a company that has one of the tightest grips on the supply chain in the tech industry.
Windows OEMs building Ultrabooks need to also factor in the cost of a Windows license, further eating into Ultrabook profit margins.
The problem with Ultrabooks isn't the chassis, but the cost of the processor. The Intel processors at the heart of these devices are the most expensive part, costing in the region of $200. Now that AMD has the Trinity line of A-series processors out which cost less than the equivalent Intel offerings, the company is now under pressure to cut costs. Rather than cut into its CPU profit margin, Intel is instead looking at other ways to trim costs so that OEMs can maximize revenues.
A thin and light system built around an aluminum chassis that is strong, light and capable of dissipating heat makes sense. But now we are now seeing signs of compromise, and in the worst possible place, because this is the part that people see and touch. While most people don't have a clue what's supposed to be inside a portable system, they are aware of what they're supposed to look like, and the message that Apple's been giving out is that plastic -- whether it's cheap or not -- is not what a portable system is supposed to be made out of.
Once again, Apple has set a bar that others have to match up to. And it seems that the bar has been set too high.
Compromising on what an Ultrabook is supposed to be -- especially this early in their lifecycle -- does not bode well for the platform. To me, this feels like netbooks all over again, and it won't be long before a promising platform is driven into the ground in an attempt to cost as many costs as possible.
And so begins the slow but inevitable death of the Ultrabook; death at the hands of a thousand cost cuts.
Image credit: Microsoft/Lenovo.
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