Usually, but not necessarily, the top trends in the tech industry get quite clear at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which marks the start of the year for most of us in techville. Last year, companies made an effort to put their best foot forward with tablets posing with striking features and slick designs. Looking at CES 2012, ultrabooks seem to be a clear winner. The reason possibly could be that PC manufactures couldn’t really make it into the tablet space with their failing Android tablets and no one could come close to Apple’s iPad. If we may say so, PC makers decided to choose what they are adept at.

Intel who isn't closely related to anything ultra-mobile, marched in with its ultrabook therapy. Tablets are increasing in number and that of the notebook market and sales are lowering. To keep the mills running, Intel showed its ‘Ultra’ concept, which will strive to bring a lighter, portable, yet faster device. Now, this wasn’t a concept in its original form, as we’ve seen the Apple Macbook Air release years ago, but the thought put in was yet commendable. Just about any laptop with sleek attire couldn’t grab itself the ultrabook title, there were measures and improvements to ensure that users get a set of right and enhanced features. This also helped push upwards the falling notebook prices.

Feature packed yet light in weight

Feature packed yet light in weight

Intel’s criteria for a notebook to become an ultrabook

  • Lose those extra kilos and shed enough weight to meet the thin and sleek criteria of less than 21mm at its thickest point.
  • The start-up or boot time should be as low as possible, a single digit is preferred, this can be achieved with Intel’s Rapid Start Tech or other third party solutions.
  • An enhanced, prolonged battery life something between 5 to 8 hours, obviously the form factor shouldn’t compromise on the battery life.
  • Security should be an essential aspect; the device must adopt security features for users and the device.
  • Should run on Intel Core processors (they wouldn’t miss this one).
  •  Wake up time should be as quick as possible.

From international brands, like HP, Lenovo, Asus, and Dell, to local ones, like Wipro have tested waters on the ultrabook front. Intel also plans to look forward to the increasing demand for touchscreen devices, which could further flourish on ultrabook form factors. “The thin Ultrabook notebooks are just the first step and the long-term plan for Ultrabooks is to fuse together a compact laptop with a tablet. That means in a few years, an Ultrabook will most likely be a thin, lightweight laptop with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet,” says Sandeep Aurora, Director, Marketing, Intel, South Asia.  

So, where exactly are the ultrabooks heading? What can we expect from companies and how confident are manufacturers about the product as a whole; leave alone what they plan to craft and display on their store shelves? We asked some leading ultrabook manufactueres what they think. Here’s what tech pros at Intel, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and the newest entrant Wipro have to say.

The year 2012 is of ultrabooks – blame it on slim form, faster boot-up and long battery life

If last year was about tablets, then this year is about giving ultrabooks a chance to prove themselves. The year saw an array of ultrabooks emerge and a select few made their way to the Indian market, too. Intel expects 75 more designs to emerge this year, itself. We're pleased to see that the OEMs are really getting behind the product and we are expecting close to 75 more ultrabook designs to arrive in 2012. We’ve set ambitious goals and we’re thrilled with the reception ultrabooks have received, so far. There’s already been a lot of enthusiasm around the category. And remember that this is just the beginning for ultrabooks – we’re getting started,” said Sandeep Aurora, Intel.

CES 2012 actually should see sleeker and contemporary designs of the ultrabooks from several manufacturers, which is one reason why the year could see a booming ultrabook market. A study late last year by IHS iSuppli predicts that ultrabooks will replace 43 percent of notebook shipments by 2015.  Despite the love-hate relationship we share with touchscreens, it is one of the most sought out attribute, keeping in view the tablet market. Intel is aware of this, and looks forward to thin ultrabooks fusing both laptop and tablet attributes with the touch ability.

While Wipro decided to stay silent, when tablets began to emerge, it was quick enough to put out its first ultrabook – the e.go Ultrabook. So, what may have compelled Wipro to opt for ultrabooks over the trending tablets. “With the legacy that we have in the area of computing, it is natural for us to play in this space. A tablet is a good content consumption device. We were not among the first few players in this space which is dominated by a couple of players. From a business standpoint the tablet segment offers less space for us as of now. However we are constantly evaluating the space. I think with the launch of Windows 8, both ultrabooks and tablet space will further hot up,” Ashok Tripathy, Vice President & Business Head -WS&T & IAS, CEO OFFICE – WS&T & IAS.

We loved tablets for their mere portable nature among other highlights. Intel believes that ultrabooks give its consumers the features and form factor, which they would have loved in laptops, and have come to love in their tablet PCs. Sandeep Aurora further adds, “We at Intel are very excited about Ultrabooks and we have reasons to believe that the larger technology ecosystem is too. If the buzz around the category at the recently concluded CES in Las Vegas is anything to go by, then we can safely say that 2012 will be the year of Ultrabooks.

Synonymous to these thoughts, Shishir Singh, Director – Product Marketing, CSMB, Dell India says that looking at the industry buzz, there is an indication that 2012 is shaping up to be the year of the ultrabooks with several brands entering this new upcoming race track. “We believe that mobility will dictate the form factor of computing devices in the years to follow. Laptops are getting slimmer, and at the same time, they are packed with performance. Today, devices are changing according to the needs of the consumers and there is a huge convergence of user devices which enable consumers to easily connect anytime, anywhere,” he adds.

Slim and trim

Slim and trim

The ultrabooks have a set of features, which will be seen as consistent, unlike tablets in the low-end tablet market, which have nothing much appealing about themselves, apart from the price tag. “Today, Consumers look for machines which are not only high on style-quotient but also faster to boot-up and shut down. These machines should be highly mobile, have long battery life and help them not only ‘consume’ but also ‘create’ data effectively – ultrabooks serve this purpose impeccably,” suggests Rajesh Thadani, Director, Consumer Business segment, Lenovo.

Ultrabooks are carrying higher price tags, and therefore aren’t within the reach of many users. The prices are maintained high as the product category tries to maintain the swifter performance abilities, which it doesn’t want to compromise on, clearly a delight to the corporate segment who are looking for powerful yet light laptops. “The year 2012 is most definitely the year of the Ultrabooks since it is a very exciting form factor. This form factor is the need of the hour, it talks about “Thin & light” stylish laptops that enhance portability. Since the laptops are backed by a long battery life the same ensures that productivity doesn’t suffer. All this comes with high performance therefore the consumer doesn’t need to compromise,” reveals Ketan Patel, Country Manager –  Consumer Premium and Transactional Volume, HP PSG India.

In 2012, the emphasis on touch interfaces with thinner and lighter design of Ultrabooks could make this new generation of convertible laptops more desirable than the convertibles of the past few years. New Ultrabooks with higher-resolution displays are also likely to be unveiled. Ultrabooks are expected to flood the market next year, as PC and laptop makers search for ways to compete against the proliferation of mobile devices,” Alex Huang, Managing Director, System Business Group, Asus(India).

Ultrabooks – Not a competition to tablets

Tablets and ultrabooks are two different platforms, altogether. Both have a niche market and cater to audiences for different purposes. ultrabooks have evolved from notebooks by shedding those extra kilos, promising better battery and power that a laptop can deliver whilst maintaining the portability factor of tablets. Both can co-exist in the tech-ecosystem. While this sentiment is echoed by spokespersons of companies, Intel believes that the thin line between both product categories may disappear, someday. And why not, we love multi-tasking products, don’t we?

Although Wipro believe that they weren’t among the first few players in the tablet market and don’t have too much scope in the space, they haven’t put aside the possibility to emerge with a tablet, altogether. Moreover, Ashok Tripathy from Wipro believes that Windows 8 will play a vital role in evolving both ultrabooks and tablets. Rajesh Thadani from Lenovo would agree as he believes that ultrabooks are not here to replace an existing device; they are here to provide an additional choice to users who are always on the look-out for something new and fashionable. Tablet PCs play the role of a companion device and hence, its comparison with ultrabooks would not be too apt.

Highly portable

Highly portable

One wouldn’t ditch a smartphone for a notebook, but we did see devices being crafted to bridge the gap between a phone and a tablet. People prefer multiple devices, but that doesn’t strike out the choice to opt for one device capable of doing it all, Yes, the Galaxy Note has proven how well it can behave as a tablet and smartphone. “The lines between the devices will disappear and that will get really interesting over the next couple of years. We have to understand what that means from a compute perspective. Intel is investing in multiple mobile technologies including PCs, phones and tablets because one device does not fit all. Eventually people will think of an Ultrabook as a tablet when they want it and a PC when they need it,” states Sandeep Aurora from Intel.

HP has tablets very much on their cards. The company is all set to launch the Slate that runs on Windows 7 and would make its way to the Indian market after the global launch.  HP tablet would be an added device for entertainment and doesn’t plan to be replacement for desktops of laptops. Ketan Patel from HP believes, “Tablets are a very different form and factor than the laptop or the notebook. Their market space does not coincide with the laptop space.” Dell’s Shishir Singh believes that tablets cannot replace ultrabooks or vice versa. Tablets aim at content creation aspect with its touch ability, while ultrabooks bring in portability with power pack features. “There is some overlap but they don't necessarily replace each other,” he points out. “Ultrabooks have certainly resulted in some shift of preferences from the previously existing market segments. But it cannot majorly affect the existing tablet market as they vary largely in terms of functioning, purpose, pricing and a lot more factors,” Alex Huang disclosed.

Ultrabooks could likely revive the laptop market and have been noticed in the tab invaded tech industry today. Watch this space for ultrabooks that exist and expect to hit Indian store shelves, this year.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,