Intel is getting more serious on their intent to drive sales of "Ultrabooks" in the upcoming holiday season and beyond. We had reported earlier on rumors that the chip giant was paying first-tier notebook vendors to develop Ultrabooks, but with the fund announcement they are making it official and demanding upfront more innovation from manufacturers with their next wave of thin and light laptops.
Intel plans to invest the funds in the next 3 to 4 years, aiming to invest in manufacturers that innovate on hardware design and software that can improve users' experience and enhance battery life. A three phase strategy begins as soon as this year with ultrabooks powered by current 2nd Gen Core processors (Sandy Bridge). Then next year we'll see the release of Ivy Bridge which is slated to bring improved power efficiency and a modest performance boost on both CPU and GPU sides. A third step is planned for 2013 with "Haswell", the true successor to the Sandy Bridge architecture.
Intel unveiled design guidelines for the new ultrabook category a few months ago with the goal to combine thin and light form factors with tablet features such as touchscreens and instant-on capabilities. We are already seeing some of these characteristics in today's most popular ultraportables, like Samsung's 9 Series, the MacBook Air and ThinkPad X220, so our initial take on the guidelines was that up to an extent the ultrabooks are just natural progression within the ultraportable category.
To be fair though, Intel is touting models that sell for less than $1,000 and (we assume) will carry solid state drives to comply with the instant-on features. A recent report indicated that basic ultrabook hardware could cost as little as $475 to manufacturers.
"Celebrating 30 years of innovation, the PC is the ultimate Darwinian device and Intel is striving to again reinvent mobile computing," said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group. "In 2003, the combination of Intel's Centrino technology with built-in WiFi, paired with Intel Capital's $300 million in venture investments and other industry enabling efforts, ushered in the shift from desktop PCs to anytime, anywhere mobile computing. Our announcement today is about Intel mobilizing significant investments to achieve the next historic shift in computing."
You might recall how Centrino became a buzzword in the early 2000s and suddenly everybody was looking to buy a new Intel Centrino, Wi-Fi enabled laptop. If Intel is right and this is anything like 2003 then sure, we are up for a nice revamp of the notebook market. Most importantly it will be interesting to see where the market goes once you get both laptops and tablets that are very portable, equally convenient, and are selling for similar prices.