After badly missing the move to tablet computers, Intel has signalled a double-barrelled plan to get back into the game by (1) sponsoring a new category of lightweight laptops it calls “Ultrabooks” that have some of the attributes of tablets; and (2) revealing plans to persuade tablet manufacturers to adopt use of new versions of Intel’s Atom processor, rather than the ARM designs which currently dominate the tablet genre.
The Ultrabook plan was announced by Sean Maloney, Intel vice president and its new China market chief, at Computex, the annual big computer show in Taipei. He claimed 40 percent of new laptops would be Ultrabooks by the end of 2012.
According to Maloney, the vision is for a family of “thin, light and beautiful designs that are less than 20mm thick”, with mainstream price points under US$1000.
They will be powered by the current and next generation of the Core processors, Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge. With Ivy Bridge processors set to launch early next year, Intel is releasing its first 22nm chip that will be complementary with both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connectivity.
The move is hardly Intel’s first crack at the thin-and-light market. It has promoted netbooks – now widely seen as on the wane – and for a while also promoted so-called ULV or ultra-low-voltage, laptops which failed to excite the market.
The Ultrabooks will start this year at close to US$1000, said Thomas Kilroy, GM of Intel’s sales and marketing group. He predicted prices would decline to between $699 and $799 in 2012.
The Ivy Bridge next generation of CPUs should enable even more powerful Ultrabooks when they arrive in the first half of 2012, thanks to their 22nm technology.
At Computex, Maloney also talked up “Medfield,” Intel’s planned Atom-based tablet and phone platform. He showed a Medfield tablet running Android Honeycomb and promised that Medfield-based devices would hit the market sometime in the first half of 2012.