Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | January 16, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Intel-powered Ultrabooks were everywhere at CES 2012. But can they beat Apple at its own game?

Ed Bott

Ed Bott

Yes

or

No

Robin Harris

Robin Harris

Best Argument: Yes

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

A recipe for success

Ed Bott: Apple has been kicking ass in the high-end portable PC market over the last couple years. The MacBook Air has become deservedly popular for its exquisite engineering. But that’s all about to change. The pieces are finally clicking together for PC OEMs to make small, light, great-looking portable PCs at commodity prices. That is historically when the Apple versus Wintel battles get interesting. In this economy price is more of an issue than ever, and economies of scale should drive the price of ultrabooks down quickly.

I predict ultrabooks will be a big hit with PC buyers who like the MacBook Air form factor but prefer Windows to OS X. The combination of genuinely interesting hardware and a mature, smoother, more reliable Windows should narrow or even erase the design gap between Apple’s MacBook Air and those of the top Wintel OEMs. Historically, that’s a recipe for success.

Another profitless bit of me-too-ism

Robin Harris: Apple has re-defined music players, smart phones, tablet computers and, with the MacBook Air, the notebook computer. They've also gobbled up the lion's share of the profits and will do so again in Ultrabooks.Apple dominates over-$1,000 PC revenue with a 90% share. They dominate tablets likewise. The last 2 MacBook Air models have been a huge hit. Apple's strategy is to win profits, not volume.

Now, aided by an Intel war chest estimated at $300-$500 million, the PC vendors are striking back with the same tired "cheaper, not better" strategy that lost them the profitable markets segments in high-end PCs. It's another profitless bit of me-too-ism by the 20th century anachronism known as Wintel.

Wintel will lose the Ultrabook battle.

Talkback

69 comments
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  • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

    Gosh Ed I thought you were more of a realist! But I am looking forward to reading your opinion.
    pete_w_flynn
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

    They just work
    pschultz1
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
    • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

      @pschultz@...

      Wintel will catch and exceed Apple. Apples tactic of everyone will be happy with our limited product line is ass nine. I'm sorry but I will never buy an Apple product....EVER!
      Rob.sharp
      Reply Vote I'm for Yes
      • Who cares what you buy?

        Nobody here!
        @rob.sharp@...
        GoPower
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

    Who wouldn't want a laptop that costs > $1K with lots of bloatware and all of the Digital Restrictions Management that you one could ever want? And you've got those very entertaining blue guys marketing the Intel hardware, that is more than enough to override any logic about cost or battery life usability.
    HackerJ
    Reply Vote I'm for No
    • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

      @HackerJ: PC OEMs routinely fill their PCs with so much bloatware it slows the PC down and makes it less fun to use but the massive price differences ultrabooks will get to, people simply don't care enough.
      bradavon
      Reply Vote I'm for Yes
    • Economics 101 anyone?

      @HackerJ

      Yeah, well, that's how they manage to reduce the price of their systems and still stay profitable. Every time a user "clicks and buys" on one of those pieces of bloatware the software vendor makes a few bucks, the distributor makes a few bucks, and the hardware vendor that shipped the system with the bloat installed gets a few bucks. Compare that to Apple - you basically get to pay a higher price for less 3rd party bloatware and more *ahem* apple experience.

      Some of that "bloatware" is actually practical. I like Lenovo's security suite, including their fingerprint software. I love the fact that most reputable vendors have some kind of backup included on top of MS's shadow copy, including having the user pop in a few DVD's the first time they start up the system. I believe Apple moved their "backup" service to the cloud, i.e. your system disks (?) are in your i-tune account. Kinda silly if you ask me, but anyhoo. I guess it saves Apple $1.50 for every user rather than having to burn the discs. Perhaps their version of "premium" services and devices is slowly...."evolving"?!
      rock06r
      Reply Vote I'm for Yes
      • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

        @rock06r: Apple provides the backup on a thumb drive. Especially useful since you can't burn a DVD on an Air, they don't have an internal DVD drive anyway.

        And just how do Ultrabook makers provide their system backups? Don't you have to burn it to DVDs? Which means, for UltraBook owners, they, too, need to buy an external drive. Or burn the backup to a thumb drive. Which they have to buy.

        While I'm here, the question "Can Wintel win..." needs a goal defined. As Robin said, if it is numbers, Wintel will win. If is profits, Apple will win. Since I'd rather have profits than numbers, I vote "No."
        levinson
        Reply Vote I'm for No
      • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

        @levinson "And just how do Ultrabook makers provide their system backups?"

        I don't have an ultrabook, but I have an HP Pavilion dm1 that has no optical drive and I had an Acer Aspire1 netbook (obviously with no optical drive) and both systems' recovery software allowed to create recovery media to a thumbdrive as well as DVD.

        I personally chose DVD with my USB burner plugged in as I think DVDs are more reliable than thumbdrive for long term storage, but I understand that not everybody's got a USB burner.

        I'm not for ultrabooks even if my reply seems to support it. I'm for the small form factor but not at the price ultrabooks are selling. The HP Pavilion dm1 I've got is a small form factor with long battery life even though it's not as thin as an ultrabook and it's got a real 640Gig hard drive instead of an SSD, but the price is right!
        lepoete73
        Reply Vote I'm for No
  • RE: Can Wintel win the Ultrabook market?

    There are really two questions here: (1) Can Wintel Ultrabooks gain significant market share in the Ultrabook category? and (2) Can Wintel Ultrabook manufacturers make a reasonable profit from Ultrabooks?

    Based on history, I believe the answer to (1) is "yes". As in the "regular" laptop market, there are people who are locked into Windows and don't care about OS X and will gladly pay less for an Ultrabook that gives them the minimum features and capabilities they need.

    Also based on history, I believe the answer to (2) is "no". Also as in the laptop market, the large number of competitors will quickly drive the Ultrabook into becoming a commodity with vanishing profit margins.

    Which raises question 3 - should Apple be worried? Definitely no. There's no reason to believe their view of the Ultrabook will be any different than their view of the laptop - let the competitors sell as many of them as they want at insufficient prices.
    wschnaer
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided