Best Argument: Yes
It’s about time
Four years ago, when Apple introduced the MacBook Air, it cost a fortune and it got mostly terrible reviews. It took Apple several more years to get it right, thanks mostly to improvements in processor and chipset design by ... Intel.
It's taken Intel's Windows customers a bit longer to get their act together, but the Ultrabook category represents an impressive step in the right direction: a commodity product that enables hardware makers to create small, light, powerful PCs that are optimized to run Windows.
I have no doubt that Apple will continue to make huge profits by selling its small notebook as a luxury item to the top of the market.
I also have no doubt that Ultrabook prices will continue to drop, because that's what the Wintel ecosystem does best.
Thankfully, this year Windows users will finally have a range of choices in an obviously desirable form factor. That's what competition is about.
A different view of win
Many have a different view of "win" than I do. PCs and Ultrabooks are low-profit losers. The Wintel companies chasing the Ultrabook market - really, the MacBook Air market - can't win from a business perspective.
Manufacturers that ship a lot of product and eke out a small profit can't innovate fast enough. Ed conceded the point: "For five years, the Wintel ecosystem has been working on miniaturizing the components that make up an Ultrabook."
Just as Apple is the #1 supplier of all-in-one systems - the iMac - and surely the most profitable, it is clear that they will remain the #1 supplier of Ultrabook-class notebooks. And as in smartphones, they will win the lion's share of the profits, enabling continued investment and innovation that Wintel can only dream about.
That's a win in my book.
This one was almost a draw. Of course, we don't do draws in the Great Debate. Robin is right that the Ultrabook movement hasn't really shown us a whole lot of innovation so far. It's mostly a lot of uninspired MacBook Air knock-offs.
Still, price does matter and I agree with Ed that the Ultrabook vendors are going to aggressively drop the price of their laptops in 2012 and undercut Apple. That will leave the high end of the market (and most of the profits) to Apple, while putting Ultrabooks in the hands of a lot more buyers. So, when we ask who wins this market, it depends on how we define winning.
I'm going to side with the majority of consumers, who will ultimately get a much better laptop than their last one when they buy an Ultrabook for under $1,000. That means Ed gets the nod.