Does the Ultrabook Definition Need Tightening?

As the man behind I think about Ultrabooks multiple times every single day. I think about what's happening in the public eye but I also focus carefully on what's going, or could be going on, behind the scenes. I take comments from my readers seriously too but the hardest part is trying to balance what Intel, manufacturers, bloggers, journalists and fans say with what might be important for the silent majority, the mainstream that Intel and their partners will have to target in order to have a chance of making this Ultrabook thing , a complete change in the way laptops are made, succeed.

Price is clearly a major consideration and I have no doubt that prices will reach mainstream levels. In fact, in the long-term, the Ultrabook design and production methodology could turn out to be cheaper than a traditional laptop but what does make me pause for thought is the definition of an Ultrabook and how important that is for the mainstream. Does Joe Average need to know exactly what an Ultrabook is or, like the expression 'SUV' is it something that can help customers find their way in the market?

The mainstream user hasn't really heard much about the 'Ultrabook' yet and given that there's an average 3 year+ update period for laptops, many won't hear about Ultrabooks until 2013 or 2014. At that point, every category of the laptop market will have moved-on in significant ways. Design, weight, battery life, style, operating systems, features - all part of the 'Ultrabook effect' and that, for everyone, is the most important result. Having 'Ultrabook' defined as a 13" 1.3KG SSD-only Windows 8 laptop isn't going to help anyone.

It's important that the Ultrabook methodology touches every segment of the laptop market and while that may not please onlookers who want everything to happen in their favorite segment, every customer needs to be catered for. The Ultrabook isn't a specialist laptop product; The Ultrabook is a mainstream laptop event.

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To me Ultrabook means Apple compete.

While form factor and features are an important part of this, I think the key differentiator is build quality and performance. I don't know how baked into the specifications these are, but I think the PC market is in need of a signal to consumers that this is an "Apple-quality" product.

By 2013 or 2014 there will be other buzzwords around. Maybe then the hype will be about 'megabooks' or 'touchbooks' or something similar. Technology will evolve and marketing people will try to sell it.

No matter how hard Intel and said partners try the mainstream will inevitably define what it wants to call an Ultrabook. Intel might be trying to push a set of standards and might be pushing the marketing scheme but in the long terms the public, bloggers and media will eventually place any ultra-thin laptop into the "new" category.

Chippy, thanks for sharing this. I tweeted it at @SoftwarePartner

I think you raise a very good question: "Does Joe Average need to know exactly what an Ultrabook is or, like the expression 'SUV' is it something that can help customers find their way in the market?"

My personal opinion is that Ultrabook is a success if the average joe doesn't know exactly what it is (or what the specs are), but they are familiar enough with the term to feel it is a high quality, affordable "mobile" device that simply does what they need ("no compromise") in an ideal form factor that appeals to them. However, that also connects to your second point about the laptop market changing by 2013 or 2014... if people don't know enough about what the Ultrabook is, people could start using the term "ultrabook" loosely to define any thin, light, high performing laptop, which doesn't necessarily mean Intel inside.

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