Intel wants to try to bridge the gap between tablets and lightweight notebooks with a new category of devices it unveiled at the Computex trade show called Ultrabooks. The products attempt to deliver the thin and light design of lightweight notebook with the functionality of a tablet. The company says that the Ultrabooks, which all run on its processors, could have as much as 40 percent market share by the end of 2012.
Lofty goals aside, it’s hard to see much value in Ultrabooks. They might appeal to those who don’t want to opt for tablets and don’t need high-powered notebooks. But other than that, the market for them seems rather limited. Moreover, at a sub-$1,000 price tag, it might be hard for Intel to get consumers to buy Ultrabooks instead of tablets, considering how popular devices such as the iPad have become over the last couple years.
Simply put, Intel’s Ultrabooks idea seems like an ill-conceived strategy that could go horribly wrong for the chip maker.
Read on to find out why Ultrabooks are just a bad idea.
1. Where is Intel really focused?
Intel doesn’t seem focused on any one thing. The company is doing well in the laptop and desktop markets, but its investors know all too well that its product line falls short in the mobile market. Is Intel’s Ultrabooks push an attempt to fend off any complaints from investors who are concerned about its focus in the desktop and laptop markets, or does Intel really believe it can be a success with the new devices? At this point, that’s not clear. And that could prove to be an issue for the company as investors start to wonder if it’s really focused on making Ultrabooks a success or if it’s simply a bridge to work its way into the mobile space.
2. The company needs a better mobile strategy
Speaking of the mobile space, Intel has had trouble trying to influence that market. It continues to promise bigger and better things for tablets and smartphones, but so far, it hasn’t delivered. Ultrabooks are a bad idea simply because Intel should be focusing its efforts on developing a tablet and smartphone strategy that will actually work. Those devices are the future, not Ultrabooks.
3. Netbooks are dying
Once all the marketing speak is stripped away from Intel’s Ultrabooks idea, it won’t take long for some consumers to wonder if the devices are simply what other vendors call netbooks. After all, the computers will be mobile, somewhat underpowered compared to bigger alternatives and affordable. For its part, Intel has shied away from the netbook title, but it might be an appropriate comparison. As recent sales figures have shown, netbooks are dying. That doesn’t bode well for Intel’s Ultrabooks.
4. Chromebooks are more unique
Let’s not forget that Intel isn’t the only company trying to bring a new product category to the marketplace. The company’s Ultrabooks announcement followed Google’s launch in May of Chromebooks, a new line of devices, made by vendor partners, that runs its cloud-based Chrome operating system. Though they might not survive against tablets and high-powered laptops either, Chromebooks are at least unique. Intel’s Ultrabooks, on the other hand, don’t seem unique enough to justify their purchase.
Intel Sets Bold and Risky Ultrabook Sales Target
5. The market isn’t looking for a new category
One must wonder if the marketplace is really even looking for an entirely new product niche. Consumers can now choose between tablets, desktops and notebooks. If they so choose, they can buy netbooks. Ultrabooks seem like an extra category that will do little to entice consumers and do far too much to confuse them.
6. Making the case is an uphill battle
Though it’s easy for Intel to talk about the value of its Ultrabooks and why it believes consumers will buy them, the company is facing a seriously tough battle ahead of it as it tries to market its idea to customers. Consumers inherently “get” tablets. They also “get” notebooks. But can they understand an idea that combines those two elements and doesn’t necessarily deliver the benefits of owning either type of product? It’s tough to say. But if one thing is certain, Intel will have a tough time trying to get consumers to jump at the chance of buying Ultrabooks.
7. Is thinness enough?
Intel is extremely focused on ensuring that the devices labeled as Ultrabooks are some of the thinnest options on the market. But will that be enough to appeal to consumers? Sure, thin designs look neat on store shelves, but they can also be troublesome for users who drop the fragile devices. Thinness alone isn’t enough to justify a purchase. Intel will need to rework its sales pitch to include more than thinness to make Ultrabooks a success.
8. ARM is a major issue
Intel’s decision to offer a new product category in the computing market might make some wonder if it was a response to the pressure it’s getting from ARM. That company, which delivers chip architecture to partners, is currently dominating the mobile market and could very well become a major player in the Windows ecosystem, thanks to Microsoft’s announcement earlier this year that the software giant’s next desktop operating system-presumably Windows 8-will support ARM-based processors. ARM is a threat to Intel and although the chip maker thinks Ultrabooks might help, they won’t.
9. Will vendors sign on?
It’s worth noting that Intel will not be developing Ultrabooks on its own. Instead, the company will be working with vendors, including Asus, to bring the computers to the market. The only issue is Intel will now need to find more vendors that will be willing to play ball, which might not be an easy task since Ultrabooks will need to sell well in order for more companies to sign on to the idea. At this point, vendor support could prove to be Ultrabooks’ biggest problem.
10. The bar has been placed too high
At the Computex trade show where it announced Ultrabooks, Intel said that it believes by the end of 2012 the computers will represent 40 percent market share in the computing space. It was unclear whether the company was referring to the entire computer market or just the mobile-computing space. In either case, 40 percent might be a difficult number to hit. Ultrabooks will take time to get off the ground and appeal to customers. Intel is drawing the wrong kind of attention to Ultrabooks. By saying they will hit such a high mark, the company is leaving itself open to criticism. Anything less than 40 percent would be viewed as a failure. If Intel said nothing, it wouldn’t have needed to worry about that pressure.