The Ultrabook Challenge

By  |  Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 3:53 am

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

Let’s start with Dell; I go to 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?



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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Reece Tarbert Says:

    What about non OEM specific sites like Amazon and the others? Doesn’t seem that hard to me — unless the point was to prove that, even in this respect, Apple does it better.


  2. David Says:

    I don't see what Intel has to gain by "competing" with Apple since it is Apple's supplier of OSX based processors. Sure, make equally-great components for Apple's competitors, but why bite one of the hands that feeds you?

    It would be more beneficial to Intel to focus on making better components for Apple (and everyone else) to choose from. I'm thinking mainly of graphics or GPU/CPU unified architecture. If they can match or beat AMD and nVidia in performance whilst consuming less power, they'd have a lot more business.

  3. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Especially when you can not only run Windows on a MacBook Air, but Apple even supplies all the drivers and makes it easier to support than a Dell or other generic hardware.

    But Intel sees that 5 years from now, 90% of computer sales with be iPad and MacBook Air or clones of same, and iPad does not use Intel chips. If Apple is the only one making what is really a modern, 21st century notebook, then ultimately, Intel's parts shipments will drop dramatically. They are already being outsold by ARM and ARM is only just bringing in quad-core and is not 64-bit yet.

    And, if Intel's non-Apple suppliers don't learn to fit huge Intel chips into tiny notebooks, they may start putting ARM in to get that tiny, especially now that Adobe's FlashPlayer media-playback monopoly has been broken and PC makers don't need Adobe's blessing to use ARM.

  4. Relwal Says:


    It's probably not going to cut it for Peter Bright, but it will do just fine for what most people will use a MacBook Air for.

  5. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    No, that is ridiculous. You just recommended a bicycle as a replacement for a racing motorcycle. A ChromeBook does not even replace an iPad, let alone a full Mac.

    Most MacBook Air users will heavily use: Mac OS X, iLife, iTunes, iCloud, Intel i5, Thunderbolt, the multitouch trackpad, and many more features that make MacBook Air popular and ChromeBook not.

    Chrome OS is the free subset of Mac OS X: Unix core with WebKit browser. That is the part of a Mac that comes for free for 10 years now. The part of the Mac that users pay for is just totally absent on a Chromebook.

  6. Pat Says:

    Why do tech writers not understand that we have almost 10% unemployment. People want a CHEAP laptop that looks good. Price is still the biggest issue. People are buying MBAs cuz its fast and a LOT cheaper than the Mbp they might have got. pcs dont need ultrabooks they needa to continue bringing laptops prices under 500 bucks and they will continue to hold 95 percent marketshare

  7. Jeremiah Says:

    Get a mac 🙂

    (I did, in 1993, never cared about the plastic black-piano-varnish-stuff on the other side of the fence since then)

  8. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    It is funny how some users are holding their Windows PC in a death grip even though all the technology writers, website publishers, app developers, computer scientists, information technologists, and other computer people have long since joined all the artists and other creative people on the Mac.

    If you hire an engineer in Silicon Valley, you have to give him or her a Mac. You cannot hire an engineer and give him a Windows PC, he will not take the job. There is another job down the road where they will give him real tools and his career can continue without sabotage from Washington State.

  9. SirFatty Says:

    Trollin' Trollin' Trollin' RAWHIDE!

    Give it a rest… slashdot would work better for you.

  10. MJPollard Says:

    Nah, he wouldn’t fit in there, either. At Slashdot, you have to be a Linux fanboy.

  11. Shafky Says:

    Intel’s new slim line form factor for portable laptops could help laptop manufacturers strike back at the dominance of Apple’s MacBook Air. We managed to get our hands on some of the first models to go on show at the IFA Technology Show in Berlin.