"Ultrabook" is a word you've probably already heard used to describe a thin, powerful laptop. You've probably also seen a MacBook Air—the genre's archetype. But if you haven't heard the term this year, get ready for some major exposure: ultrabooks are the way PC laptops will be marketed to us in 2012. But are they something new? Or simply a laptop, refined?
Intel will tell you the former—that Ultrabooks represent a revolutionary "new era" in computing. Intel's role is to provide the ultra-thin guts to PC manufacturers like Toshiba, Acer and Asus, who bundle the hardware into their own unique takes on the ultrabook form.
At their CES press conference this morning, Intel outlined all the new features these guts will have in 2012. And they're impressive, inside and out.
On the outside, Intel's pared-down logic boards will ensure that 2012's PC ultrabooks can all be under 18mm thin. And with more powerful batteries on board, these new laptops will be able to power larger screens, addressing a frequent complaint: ultrabooks' smaller screens. Intel says half of the ultrabooks in the 2012 pipeline will have screens 14" or larger.
Good things continue on the inside. Intel's Sandy Bridge integrated graphics (which will be replaced by the next-generation Ivy Bridge later this year) can power DirextX 11 graphics without breaking too much of a sweat (and, hopefully, without killing your battery). Built-in near-field communication brings the possibility of instantaneous info transfers from NFC-equipped objects for quickly entering credit card info, sharing links and photos, and more. When paired with Intel's hardware-based identity protection system, which verifies your info is coming from your computer, it's a convenient and secure package. Intel's also partnering with the voice-recognition company Nuance to provide the computing muscle necessary for advanced Siri-like speech controls, but without having to connect with the cloud.
Intel's also interested in playing with user interfaces. Personally I'm skeptical of their claim this morning that touching our laptops' screens will ever be a viable method of interacting with them (and according to Twitter, many of you agree with me). Right now, I can only see this being usable on hybrid tablet-laptop devices like Asus's Transformer Prime, especially when paired (one day) with Windows 8's touch-focused interface elements.
How the manufactures implent these features is up to them, but they'll being doing it with a huge Intel marketing push at their back. It's no wonder they allotted half of their CES press conference this morning to their senior VP of marketing. He showed us a commercial that likens the ultrabook to man's ancient discovery of agricultural tools and the Gutenberg printing press—no joke. This is some serious marketing about to be unleashed.
The elephant in the room for Intel and the PC makers, of course, is that the MacBook Air has been on sale since January 2008. The current generation, the first to fully and with no compromises in power replace a larger laptop for everyday use, has been on the market since late 2010. There's a lot of catching up to do, hence the major marketing. In the end, we'll be dealing with tons more sleeker, lighter and faster Windows laptops on the market. A good thing? Definitely. Akin to man's discovery of the iron plow? Probably not.
Follow along with all of our CES 2012 coverage here.
A comment about the MacBook air, I have never used one because in my own opinion I find the Mac OS less friendly than Windows, but that is because I have used Windows for forever. Back on topic however is that, being that Windows is the dominant OS, these will more than likely be far more popular than MacBook Airs.
Also, I disagree that touch screen won't work well with laptops, as much as I hate to admit it, using windows 8 without touch screen is like using a TV without a remote, viable, but uncomfortable. If you don't believe me, get a Windows 8 developer copy on a VM and see for yourself. I'ts fantastic, but without touchscreen is terribly awkward.
the age of the "old desktop pc" is disappearing.....soon ultrabooks and tablets will dominate the computer industry. its scary how fast the technology revolution is moving.....
"religion is like a prison for the seekers of wisdom"
desktops aren't dying, yet. you see you get more power in a desktop, personally that's what i look for when I'm getting a computer.
i spent the better part of 2 years fixing computers for a living and most of those were laptops. 75 percent of the time the problems existed because the laptop was using old technology for new programs or the laptop was getting too hot on a consistent basis. i will personally never own a laptop that is bigger than a netbook. my main computer will always be a desktop until they fix the overheating problem.
to mars or bust!
I own a desktop and a laptop, but I also disagree that desktops aren't dying yet, cause it's easier to swap and upgrade components with a desktop than a laptop.. And I completely agree with ghost on the problem of overheating, since laptops tend to have it's components tightly squeezed together to make it 'thinner' and it's also doubly hard and more expensive to find upgrades for laptops making it too much of a hassle than a desktop.
Laptops are only great for presentations or when you're traveling because of it's portability. But most work involving computers allows people to stay on stable environments making the easily upgradeable desktops more viable.
i'll take a desktop over a laptop or tablet anyday.
I see no end to Desktop use. I see there being no way to use anything but a desktop for AutoCad with a Laptop. Maybe if the screen on the laptop folds out a second screen, and has a 3D mouse built in.
All these people that are clinging to desktops...
Desktops won't become obsolete, they will become all dumb boxes ran by a computer in the cloud. Yes its easier to swap parts. Yes its this yes its that, everything you guys have said is true, but, look at the majority of people and ask, how many of them forget how to turn on their computer from time to time let alone are swapping out parts or maxing out their processors? Desktops are going to die, everyone knows it, no one wants to admit it.
P.S. My main computer is a laptop because I live both at dorms and at home, so mobility is fantastic, and, I am both a novice digital photographer (IE I use PSe on a regular basis) and love to play in autocad and SolidWorks, both of which run better on my computer than on any desktop I've ever worked on.
It seems to me you folks are trying to predict the end of knives because someone invented the fork. As I see it, desktop PCs and notebook PCs (laptop - why does anyone still cling to that 80s term anyway?) each have their own useful features. Neither one can totally eclipse the other device's usefulness.
Good info, many thank you to the author. It is incomprehensible to me now, but in general, the particular usefulness and importance is overpowering. Thanks again and good luck!