Ultrabooks' enterprise fate down to price

Enterprise users, particularly mobile workers, will appreciate ultrabooks' portability, connectivity and functionality, but high price could dampen demand, analysts say.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Ultrabooks have several factors in its favor to win over enterprise customers such as portability, connectivity and full functionality, but prices would have to drop before more companies pick the device over standard notebooks and tablets, analysts said.

According to Tim Renowden, analyst for consumer impact technology, media and broadcast at Ovum, ultrabooks are essentially thin, lightweight notebook PCs with fast boot-up times and long battery life. The devices dominated the headlines at the recently-concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which saw PC makers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo out in force promoting their latest ultrabooks.

He noted that these are full-function PCs have enough power to perform most common computing tasks, and will likely fare well against netbooks or tablets that typically run on ARM processors and come without a physical keyboard.

Rohit Partha, industry analyst for Asia-Pacific ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, also pointed out that ultrabooks are not something new and innovative, but represent an improvement over the traditional notebook design and functionality.

This device category would become a catalyst for notebook revival and influence the design of Windows-powered laptops in the near future though, he added.

Appealing, but price a hindrance
Partha said because ultrabooks typically run on Microsoft's Windows operating system (OS), and will fit right into existing PC environments that enterprises are used to. This would also allow large companies that are averse to IT diversity to continue its tight rein over its environment.

Furthermore, the ultrabooks' long battery lifespan, instant-on capabilities and security features will be "prized" by employees, particularly the mobile workforce, which he noted will be biggest facilitator for ultrabook adoption in the enterprise.

"The ultrabook is everything mobile business users rely on their traditional notebooks for, but it also has the mobility and instant-on benefits of tablets."

Renowden however pointed out that price could be the biggest hurdle for adoption, dampening ultrabooks' appeal when compared with other devices.

"Ultrabooks are effectively just a slimmer PC, so application compatibility, security, and device management are the same as any standard notebook. Hence, there may be a cost premium over standard notebooks [that] IT departments will have to weigh up," he elaborated.

Partha agreed, noting that currently ultrabooks are priced close to or upwards of the US$1,000 mark. By comparison, high-end tablets are almost 25 percent less, thus making price a major issue for companies, he added.

That said, once ultrabooks get more mainstream and affordable, "enterprises are expected to accelerate its adoption in the workspace", he said. For organizations that favor bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives, ultrabooks could also make "small" inroads there, he added.

Nick Ng, a Singapore-based marketing manager at a tech multinational company (MNC), said he finds ultrabooks' "marriage of battery life, portability and uncompromised computing power" to be its most appealing characteristic.

"There is nothing really negative about ultrabooks except for the lack of a proper display port on most of them. But as mobile warriors who are used to carrying 3G dongles and other electronic gadgets, an additional display adapter is not much of a hassle," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.

Asked if he would prefer an ultrabook or an enterprise-centric tablet such as Motorola Solutions' ET1, Ng said tablets are merely consumption devices due to the lack of a hardware keyboard and stylus. He added that such devices would do for people whose work revolves around media consumption and presentations.

"Personally, tablets will always be a secondary device. It is a great companion for consumption and light creation, but for serious work, I still have to turn to a laptop or ultrabook," he said.

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