Acer Aspire S3

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.

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10 replies on “Acer: Ultrabooks could sell for $499 by 2013”

  1. This is the problem: The PC market has been in a race to the bottom since Microsoft first sold copies of MS-DOS. People are too used to the $500 15″ laptop, despite their low specs. To see something like this, that actually costs more, is a shock and won’t sell. The reason the Macbook Air sells so well is that Macbook Pros cost so much. Just about everything Apple sells is high spec and not cheap. The market is used to the prices and are willing to pay.

  2. Ultrabooks as they are now may not sell large numbers, but it is inevitable that the traditional notebook is going to evolve toward a form factor that is thin and light like them, as pioneered by Apple’s MacBook Air. It’s the natural evolution of personal computer tech — shrinking in size while becoming more powerful. Basically, the notebook and netbook form factors and hardware specs will converge somewhere in the middle, and that will be the next-generation “portable computer with keyboard” device most of the public will be using. Netbooks and Ultrabooks are the current evolutionary steps toward this.

  3. Yeah, I could definitely see the prices coming down. It would all be due to Ultrabook makers focusing on using only SSDs. Drop the traditional hard drive, and all there is left really to put together are essentially one board, the screen, and keyboard. (Assuming that almost every component was eventually isolated onto a single motherboard.) I myself intend my next notebook will be an Ultrabook sometime next year.

  4. The other fly in the ointment is the ASUS Transformer. I have the original tricked out with 32 GB Cards in both the tablet side and the keyboard module for 80 GB when the onboard memory is considered. It has replaced my previous combo of netbook and tablet and is beefy enough to handle most “on the run” work. The prime is much better from all reports.
    As a result by 2013 the $400 Transformer iteration will be more than enough oomph for just about anything mobile. 

    1. They’ll have to do something about the top-heaviness of the tablet + dock combo, first. The Prime will suit people who only need the keyboard dock for some of the time — i.e. those who mostly surf, consume video, and play games. For those who need a keyboard most of the time, laptops will still be the way to go for a good while yet.

    2. A lot of people who have the Transformer and dock seem to like it a lot. I think it’s the most interesting full sized Android tablet out there. The lighter weight of the Prime is good. I hope that ASUS eventually makes a lighter dual core Transformer as well and sells it at a lower price.

  5. “Why spend $1000 on a 2.5 pound laptop … when you could spend less than half the price for a 3 pound notebook … or even less on a netbook?”

    I agree. A dual core AMD or even Atom processor would save money. But what is attractive about the ultrabooks is the SSD instead of a hard drive.

    I see 12″ dual core Atom netbooks online for %500.00. I see 128 GB SSD for $150.00. So I could make an SSD netbook for $650, but I can’t buy one at all.Hen it comes to light laptops, it’s the same story. A three plus pound laptop is even cheaper than a netbook. Models with an SSD are hard to come by.

    I think ultrabooks are a scam by Intel. The goal is to make people pay for things they don’t need (lighter weight, i5 processor) to get what would be truly helpful: an SSD instead of a hard drive.

    1. The benefits of putting SSDs in lower end machines are overrated. For the typical user of a lower powered notebook or netbook the performance benefits are negligible, except maybe for boot time, but then, most people don’t reboot their machines very often these days.

      1. I have a SSD in my AO522 and for me, it’s worth it. I hibernate/wake a couple times a day, run a number of image-manipulation apps, and play some games that normally have big loading times. I’m always carrying it with me and I don’t have to worry as much about bumps and bangs affecting the SSD. For what I use my netbook for, I’d choose it over an ultrabook, at least until they start offering better graphics options in them. Still, I agree that for most mundane tasks the price of a SSD might be hard to justify. To me, I guess this is a case of figuring out what you’ll use a laptop for, then finding the one that best fits your needs.

        1. I agree, for you it would seem an SSD has added value. I’m a heavy notebook user, but mostly for writing, coding, and browsing, and the extra cost of an SSD just isn’t worth the money — I would be better off investing the extra money in a faster processor.

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