Ultrabooks are thin and light portable computers with solid state disks and the latest Intel processors. Right now they’re premium laptops with prices ranging from $899 to nearly $1500. But Intel is hoping that within the next year or two ultrabooks could account for as much as 40 percent of all laptop sales — and for that to happen, the price will need to fall.
Acer doesn’t see that as a problem. DigiTimes reports that Acer president Jim Wong says the starting price will likely be $799 by the second quarter of 2012, and could be as low as $499 by 2013.
As production of ultrabooks ramps up, the cost of components will fall. But there’s a big “what if” at play here. If the early, expensive ultrabooks don’t sell well, there might not be enough demand to justify ramping up the supply.
Right now ultrabooks are a tough sell. Why spend $1000 on a 2.5 pound laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor when you could spend less than half the price for a 3 pound notebook with an AMD E-350 chip, or even less on a netbook?
It’s not that ultrabooks aren’t better than most of the lower-cost ultraportables on the market today. They’re thinner, lighter, and offer better performance. They have high performance solid state disks, and quick-resume technology. But if you’re used to spending $500 or so on a laptop, then ultrabooks carry a bit of sticker shock.
Cheap laptops have been available for a few years, but up until 2007 or so consumers looking for ultraportable models were used to paying premium prices. Netbooks changed the game by showing that just because a product is smaller doesn’t mean it has to be more expensive.
Netbooks may not be as powerful as ultrabooks, but they may have changed the game enough that it’s tough for ultrabooks to gain a foothold… at least in their current form.
Eventually Intel is hoping that its ultrabook platform won’t just compete with full-sized laptops and netbooks, but also with tablets. We’ll probably start to see ultrabooks in new form factors next year once Android is optimized for Intel chips and when Microsoft releases Windows 8.