Hewlett-Packard is circulating a teaser video for its “Spectre” ultrabook, which could appear at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show.
The 30-second video, reproduced on Websites such as The Verge, devotes most of its length to abstract imagery, although it ends with a brief shot of what is clearly a laptop, opening to emit a blast of white light. Documents filed in December with the FCC (via Wireless Goodness) suggest that the Spectre is an update of HP’s Envy 14.
For the upcoming CES 2012, slated to kick off Jan. 10, a significant number of companies will unveil ultrabooks, all of which are super-thin and boast more powerful specs than netbooks. At several events throughout the fall, companies ranging from Asus and Acer to Toshiba and HP all demonstrated ultrabooks either in development or already on store shelves.
Intel remains an aggressive driver of the ultrabook phenomenon, partnering with manufacturers to issue devices that conform to the chip maker’s exacting specifications. At the recent CEATEC conference in Japan, Intel demonstrated ultrabooks with roughly similar design parameters from Toshiba (with the Dynabook), Acer (the Aspire S3-1) and Asus (the UX21).
In many ways, ultrabooks represent a concerted attempt by Intel and those manufacturing partners to leverage the same consumer and business interest in thin, portable devices that drove the tablet phenomenon in 2011. The question is whether the ultrabooks demonstrated at CES will prove a hit for their manufacturers, or suffer the same anemic sales as many tablets that have hit the market over the past year.
The ultrabook push has its origins in the summer of 2009, when the industry was already responding to the margin concerns inherent in the then-popular netbooks, which offered low-power hardware in exchange for a cheap price. That July, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told analysts that ultra-thins would arrive on the market with better specs at a higher cost-presumably running versions of Windows that offered his company higher profits.
“We want people to be able to get the advantages of lightweight performance and be able to spend more money with us,” he said at the time.
However, there are indications that a wide variety of ultrabooks on the market will translate into depressed prices over the short term. In December, the Taiwanese publication DigiTimes quoted Acer President Jim Wong as saying that ultrabook prices would drop to around $500 by 2013, thanks in large part to that influx of competing devices.
If the price of ultrabooks dives, that would institute the same sort of margin squeeze that affected the netbook market. It would also mirror the current situation with tablets, where manufacturers have begun to slash prices in a bid to perk up anemic sales and better compete with Apple’s iPad.