PC makers: Ultrabooks will come good

Ultrabooks promise best of notebook and tablet features to meet users' needs, and one insider notes device will grow alongside tablets, rather than eat into the latter's growth.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

PC vendors are generally bullish about the Intel-backed ultrabook device category as it serves as a bridge between laptops and tablets. It will also not cannibalize tablet sales, but grow alongside to make a mark on the industry, one insider forecasted.

Ng Tian Beng, managing director for Dell South Asia and Korea, for one, told ZDNet Asia that the company sees "great potential" for ultrabooks due to recent user demands for powerful, yet portable, devices.

Ultrabooks refer to ultraportable laptops that are less than an inch thick, has fast boot-up time, extended battery life and built-in security, according to Intel, which is the primary advocate for the device category. Rival AMD is also targeting the ultraportable device space, with a company spokesperson telling ZDNet Asia it will focus on the ultra-low power segment with new APU (accelerated processing unit) models that will debut next year.

The executive explained that users are looking for a device that offers the advantages of both laptops and tablets, particularly convenient access to content on mobile devices, which is in line with the current mobility and IT consumerization trends.

Ng added that while tablets feature instant-on capabilities and portability, these lack the performance, easy content creation and support for intensive business apps that notebooks offer.

As such, ultrabooks meet users' increasing needs with features such as a highly portable size, instant-on and always connected features and a battery life comparable to laptops, he noted.

Dell had revealed earlier this month that it would be dumping netbooks in favor of its thin and powerful XPS line of laptops.

Top PC vendor Hewlett-Packard (HP) also saw potential in the device but reserved comment on when ultrabooks will become a mainstream product. Subin Joseph, vice president of commercial product management at HP Personal Systems Group, did note that feedback from customers about the company's first ultrabook--the HP Folio13--has been positive.

He went on to cite IDC's research, which showed that ultrabooks are expected to contribute about 15 percent of the consumer notebook market by 2012.

Joseph also suggested there is potential for both the tablet and ultrabook markets to grow together as people are getting used to carrying multiple devices for different purposes.

Taiwanese PC maker Acer is another that is banking on ultrabooks to boost its bottom lines. CEO J.T. Wang said earlier in December that the device category will become its key growth driver next year, as customer want a lighter, thinner notebook with longer battery life.

"Selling more ultrabooks will also help improve our profit margins as they command higher prices," he added in a ZDNet Asia report.

Consumers reticent
Consumers ZDNet Asia spoke to needed more convincing, though.

Debbie Yong, a clinic administrator, said she would consider an ultrabook over a tablet only for the use of its keyboard. However, that's only if the price is right when she next decides to get a mobile computing device, she qualified.

Jacy Then, a premier banker, added that a tablet is still more handy and better for business presentations than a thin laptop. "Since the ultrabook doesn't support CD-ROM, there's no difference compared to a tablet," she explained, adding that she's not bothered by the lack of a physical keyboard.

Furthermore, the apps and games available on tablet devices are likely to be unavailable on ultrabooks, Then added.

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