As smartphones and tablets take center stage in the technology field, Intel is making plans of its own to introduce what it calls an Ultrabook. As we all know, Intel doesn’t build computers, however, it does offer plans to manufacturers of what could be future designs that Intel plans to support. In this case, Intel has labeled its next lineup of laptop/notebook computers as Ultrabooks. So what is exactly is an Ultrabook, and why should we care?

Intel has been watching as smartphone and tablet manufacturers have been using what are called RIM processors in their latest products. As smartphone and tablet sales continue to increase, this has put pressure on the giant chip company to introduce a competitor in the market — a competitor that could replace the traditional laptop computer with a unit that will be slim and powerful in design. More important to Intel will be a computer that uses an Intel processor and not one from the many ARM and RIM manufacturers.

An Ultrabook is both a category of thin and lightweight notebook computers and a trademark held by Intel.

In order to qualify a laptop to carry the Ultrabook name, it has to meet a set of specific standards. In addition to using the Core i5 and i7 ultra-low voltage (CULV) Sandy Bridge processors, each notebook must weigh less than 3.1 pounds and be no more than 0.8 inches thick. Graphics during the first phase are handled using Intel’s HD 3000 graphics sub-system. Because of their small frame and battery life requirements, Ultrabooks are also shipped sans optical drive.

Future versions of the Ultrabook are expected to include Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge and Haswell mobile processors.

To envision what an Intel Ultrabook will look like, think of an Apple MacBook Air in a smaller design package. In fact, ASUS has a model that is currently being sold on Amazon that provides a decent reference as to what an Ultrabook is.

There is only one problem with what ASUS and others are going to be offering, and it all comes down to price. At $1199, the ASUS UX21E is currently more expensive than what Apple wants for a similar MacBook Air. Intel maintains that prices will come down, just as they did with notebook computers. But I believe in order for Intel to make a dent in the Ultrabook market place, these prices need to be in the $600 range.

For those of us who remember a time when a desktop computer cost $2k or more and laptops sold for over $3k, we have become a spoiled bunch during the past few years. Our lineup of toys now includes desktops, laptops, tablets, notebooks, and smartphones. This decade is going to see an incredible amount of new and better products coming our way. Whether or not this future includes an Intel Ultrabook in our arsenal remains to be seen.

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