May 31, 2011

Intel Shows Off Hybrid Laptop At Computex

Computer chip giant Intel is showing off a sleek, hybrid laptop, only 0.8 inches thick, with ultra-sharp visual images that it hopes will create a market bridging traditional PCs and new ultra-portable devices, reports the Associated Press (AP).

Intel explained that this laptop shows off its latest generation of processors that the chip maker will be able to deliver by 2012, when they power the next generation of ultra portables. "Computing is taking many forms," Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney said Tuesday at the opening of Taipei's Computex, the world's second-largest computing show.

By the end of 2012, Intel aims to shift 40 percent of consumer laptops to its "Ultrabook" model, a new category of thin and light mobile computers, with one of the first examples being the Asus UX21, Maloney continued.

Computer maker Apple has set the bar high for gadget makers of all kinds. With the success of the iPhone, iPad and Macbook Air, other device manufacturers have been left scrambling to catch up to Apple's offerings with many of them admittedly falling short.

The Ultrabook, as described by Maloney, is a laptop-tablet hybrid, featuring touch screens and instant log on with a price tag of less than $1,000. The projected thickness of the new Intel-powered device would make it the sleekest laptop in the marketplace after Apple's MacBook Air 15" model, which ranges from .11 to .68 inches.

In Taipei on Tuesday, Intel's vice president Mooly Eden called the Ultrabook a "different category" from the tablet and notebook, hoping that it would appeal to a different category of consumers, Reuters reports.

"There'll be some confusion if you look at the fold factor; when you open it you'll see a PC but if you're on the go, just fold it and suddenly it's a tablet. Is it a PC? Is it a tablet? I think it doesn't matter," Eden told a media conference.

Intel's "Ivy Bridge," generation of chips will power the device. Made with 22 nanometer manufacturing technology and the 3-D transistor the company unveiled early in May, it is slated to be on the market by 2012, Intel said.

Ultrabooks will also differ from current models with aggressive pricing, The Guardian reports. "We're lowering the price," Maloney says, "not so much immediately, but over time." The Ultrabook concept is to bring very thin and very responsive systems down into the mainstream, he says. When they cost $1,000 or more, they're relegated to 10% of the notebook market.

"If we do it right, the PC Ultrabook will be 40% of the notebook market in about 18 months," says Maloney. "We did this before in 2008 and we screwed it up: we didn't cut the price. Now, we'll cut the price, thanks to volume and scale."

Maloney is referring an earlier effort based on battery-friendly ultra low voltage chips, for which Intel has traditionally charged a premium. Making ULV chips in high volumes is a huge challenge from a manufacturing and design standpoint.

A new Intel chip designed for tablets and smartphones is also expected in products next year named Medfield. It will give the mobile devices longer use-time, advanced imaging and more power efficiency, Intel explained. Intel general manager for the Asia-Pacific region Navin Shenoy acknowledged the market is experiencing significant changes with "the explosion of smartphones and tablets."

"The industry is in constant change," he said. "We're more and more like the fashion industry. Nothing sticks forever. We win when we go after and create new markets," he said.


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