Ultrabooks: 10 Factors that Will Determine Their Success or Failure

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2012-05-09

Ultrabooks: 10 Factors that Will Determine Their Success or Failure

Hewlett-Packard has said for months that it'll be a staunch supporter of Ultrabooks. And the company delivered the proof on May 9 when it unveiled a wave of new enterprise-focused Ultrabooks. Led by the EliteBook Folio 9470m, HP's new line of business Ultrabooks could very well play an integral role in the success or failure of the company's enterprise-focused computing line. To say that Ultrabooks are very important to HP would be an understatement.

But HP isn't alone. Ultrabooks are increasing in popularity, and more and more vendors are deciding to offer them. The computers are a bit on the expensive side; HP's new Spectre Pro Ultrabook, for example, costs $1,049. But it delivers the kind of mobility that had heretofore not been available in the Windows notebook market. Thanks to Intel, Ultrabooks are now a real challenger in the computing space.

But that doesn't mean they'll succeed. There are several major issues that could potentially stymie Ultrabook growth in the computing space and send the product category to the junk bin.

Read on to find out the issues that are standing in the way of Ultrabook success€”now and in the future.

1. We can't forget about tablets

Although Ultrabooks might be considered a different category to some folks, they're still competing against tablets. Customers who want to be able to achieve certain computing goals while on the go are deciding between a lightweight notebook like an Ultrabook and the iPad. The fact that Ultrabooks are competing against the iPad is a major challenge to the success of the slimmer, lighter form factors from HP and other makers.

2. Pricing

As noted, Ultrabooks are rather expensive compared with other PC forms. In fact, if one wants to buy one of the older models, they'll still need to drop about $700 to $900. The newer Ultrabooks on store shelves are now setting customers back as much as $1,300. Considering nice, nearly as thin notebooks are retailing for half that, Ultrabooks might have a problem selling customers on their price.

3. Intel's control

Intel created the Ultrabook spec, which means it's playing a role in every one of the computers that are hitting store shelves. To some vendors, that's not a problem. But to others that are used to simply acquiring a chip from Intel and moving on, it is. Look for Intel's relationship with vendors to play a crucial role in the success or failure of Ultrabooks.

4. How will Windows 8 fare?

Although Ultrabooks are available now and running Windows 7, the Ultrabook makers are waiting for the introduction of Windows 8. If Windows 8 becomes a success, it will make it much easier to sell Ultrabooks. But if the operating system fails, all kinds of trouble could ensue. Expect Windows 8 to be a key component in the success or failure of Ultrabooks.

Will the Enterprise Adopt Ultrabooks?


5. Can the enterprise warm to it?

HP has made a strong commitment to Ultrabooks by bringing several of the ultrathin, lightweight devices to the enterprise. However, because of the pricing, enterprises have balked at adopting them. Plus, corporate users are starting to turn more to Apple products. Still, without enterprise adoption, Ultrabooks can't become an unqualified success.

6. Macs are a threat

Let's not forget that the first true Ultrabook was really a MacBook Air. That device, which comes with both 11- and 13-inch screens, is designed to be ultra mobile and ultra lightweight. It's the best answer yet to Ultrabooks, and it's wildly popular. That's an issue for Intel and its vendor partners.

7. Consumer knowledge plays a role

The IT community and technology fans might know Ultrabooks well, but the average, mainstream consumer who doesn't have time to follow the space so closely might be less aware of Ultrabooks' value proposition. The sooner Intel connects with the broad population of consumers and convinces them that Ultrabooks are a better option than typical notebooks, the sooner the devices can start achieving stronger sales.

8. Remember netbooks?

Before tablets came along and changed the mobile space in a dramatic way, netbooks were all the rage in the marketplace. The small, lightweight notebooks were supposed to be the next big thing in computing, but they turned out to be little more than short-term contenders. Ultrabooks aren't all that different from netbooks, which means they could suffer the same fate if buyers in general decide they prefer tablets to Ultrabooks.

9. Security

In the PC market, it's hard to talk about computers and the chances of their success and not mention Windows security. Today's consumers and enterprise users are far more cognizant of the security issues they could face by using Windows. They need to be convinced that Windows is reliably secure, and Windows 8 might go a long way toward establishing that reputation. Until Windows becomes more secure, Ultrabook sales could be slower than they otherwise would be.

10. Vendor support

Inevitably, a form factor's chances of success comes down to vendor support. If companies like HP, Dell and others continue to support the platform, it'll have a higher likelihood of succeeding. But if companies go elsewhere with their investment dollars, Ultrabooks will fail.

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