Hewlett-Packard has recently appeared to be on a different path with its promotion of WebOS in smartphones and media tablets such as the TouchPad. However, while that increasingly looks like a stumble, HP could reportedly be a lead partner for Intel's Ultrabook concept laptop, which has already been unveiled in conjunction with the Taiwanese manufacturer, Asus. Ultrabooks follow on from Sony's pioneering X505 Extreme, launched in 2003, which was by far the world's thinnest laptop until Apple followed on with the MacBook Air. The difference is that the X505 cost about £2,000, and the Samsung Series 9 is still over £1,000, whereas Ultrabooks are intended to be cheap enough to take much of the mass market.
A story in Taiwan's DigiTimes (HP to pioneer launching Ultrabook-concept notebooks, say sources) reports that: "Hewlett-Packard (HP) is likely to pioneer all branded notebook vendors to launch Intel's Ultrabook-concept notebooks, even ahead of the planned release of the UX21 Ultrabook by Asustek Computer slated for September."
HP is said to be launching two or more Ultrabooks based on ultra-thin Intel Core i7-2677M (1.8GHz) and i7-2637M (1.7GHz) processors. DigiTimes adds: "Foxconn reportedly has begun shipping the Ultrabooks to HP. However, HP and Foxconn both declined to comment."
Asus was expected to be the first company to release Ultrabooks based on new Intel chips code-named Huron River. It said: "Two models will be available: an 11.6 inch UX21 and a 13.3 inch UX31." In fact, Asus founder Jonney Shih joined Intel's Sean Maloney on stage at the Ultrabook platform's launch at the Computex 2011 trade show in Taiwan, where he thanked Intel for enabling it to be the first vendor to use Intel's most advanced technologies.
The Asus Ultrabooks are being made by Pegatron, the manufacturing arm spun off from Asus. (Both Pegatron and Asus derive their names from the winged horse, Pegasus.) Pegatron also reportedly has a contract to manufacture 15 million iPhone 5's for Apple, having delivered up to four million CDMA-standard iPhone 4s. I'd expect a Pegatron-made UX Series to be better than a Foxconn-made MacBook Air.
Asus UX Series Ultrabook with a brushed aluminium unibody design
HP had been very successful under its previous management, before Léo Apotheker replaced Mark Hurd. The company also had high hopes for its TouchPad strategy, headed by former Palm chief executive Jon Rubenstein, who had also launched the iPod following the (in effect) reverse takeover of Apple by NeXT. However, the TouchPad has been poorly received. As Rubenstein admitted in a memo to staff: "You’ve also seen that reviewers rightly note things we need to improve about the webOS experience."
HP is the world's largest PC manufacturer, and Apotheker might by now have figured out that being best buddies with Intel is somewhat more important in the short term, and possibly in the long term as well.
Being Intel's "lead manufacturer" for a new product platform is worth a lot in terms of close technical collaboration, access to the latest technologies, promotional opportunities, and probably marketing support. Whether HP will be the lead, or do the job jointly with Asus, remains to be seen.
Update: Today (July 11), Jon Rubenstein has been replaced as the man in charge of the TouchPad and WebOS products. In a press release headlined HP to Drive Innovation, Scale and Growth of webOS, HP says: "To support this next phase of growth, HP has appointed Stephen DeWitt as senior vice president and general manager of its webOS global business unit. Jon Rubinstein, the visionary behind webOS, will assume a product innovation role within the Personal Systems Group (PSG) at HP."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxwTgdNEHD0 COMPUTEX 2011: ASUS UX Series Ultra-portable laptop