Ars Technica’s Peter Bright has a good piece on “Ultrabooks”–Intel’s planned MacBook Air rivals–and why it’s surprisingly hard for any company that’s not Apple to do thin and light right. I especially like his extended rant about how freakin’ hard it is to find the computer you want on “helpful” sites such as Dell.com:
Let’s start with Dell; I go to dell.com and search for a laptop. I want something like a 13″ MacBook Air, so I tick “11 to 14 inches” and “< 5 lbs,” Dell’s ultralight category. I get back three largely indistinguishable machines, ranging from $999 to $1359. What’s the difference between them all? I don’t know, they all look like variants of the “Alienware M11x.” It’s confusing and overwhelming, not helpful.
It’s even worse if I just browse without searching. The options I get are just… meaningless. Yes, I want “Everyday Computing,” so I want an Inspiron. But hang on, I also want “Design & Performance,” so I want an XPS. Wait a second, I want “Thin & Powerful,” too. So maybe I want a Z Series? But the only line that apparently matches my broad search criteria—lightweight, 11-14″—I wouldn’t even consider because I don’t want a “gaming” laptop, and so I’m never going to click Alienware!
Is this the best way to sell laptops? Create a bunch of categories with arbitrary, overlapping labels, and just hope that buyers manage to fight through the system to find something that isn’t wretched?