Ultrabooks are coming and, as expected, Asus will be among those leading the charge. According to a report by the Financial Times, the company is expected to release "five to seven" models later this year with prices between $799 and $1,999. That's notably higher than Intel’s target price of $999 and under, but we can't really say we're surprised given OEM's component pricing concerns and the manufacturing challenge that the thinner form factor represents.
Asus' chief executive Jerry Shen also commented on Intel's ambition for ultrabooks to make up 40% of the consumer notebook market by the end of 2012, saying this is a very aggressive target that would be difficult to meet before 2013. The company expects its ‘U’ series of ultrabooks to account for 20% of its notebook sales next year.
Besides the technical difficulties involved in designing and manufacturing ultrabooks, Asus claims that there's limited capacity in the supply chain and at best it could handle producing around 200,000 units per month for now. As a reference, Asus shipped 3.1 million notebooks in the second quarter, or roughly 1 million notebooks a month.
Increased production and lower prices will eventually come, but not without any additional supply chain investments. Intel has already said it is setting apart $300 million to push the category over the next 3 to 4 years, though it remains to be seen if more notebook manufacturers decide to get on board. For now only Asus and Acer have talked about their upcoming ultrabook offerings, while Lenovo suggested that it would achieve mainstream prices in 2012.
We should note that Apple and Samsung are already selling systems that meet all of the criteria of an ultrabook -- including pricing -- with the 11.6-inch Samsung Series 9 and 11-inch Apple MacBook Air both starting at $999.