The Ultrabook project has been solely responsible for turning round the PC design and engineering business and by that I mean reducing cost and introducing design flexibility that allows OEMs to respond to changing customer demands. The Ultrabook project forced tighter integration of components on a smaller motherboard, reducing the number of upgradable/serviceable components and removing nearly all electro-mechanical parts. It drastically reduced the thermal energy generated by a typical loaded motherboard and introduced new heat-reduction technology. The combination of small motherboard, fewer options and lower thermals led to convertible and 2-in-1 devices which are set to become the post-PC solution. They offer a dynamic range of usage that beats any other design out there.
Cost is still an issue though and with Baytrail, OEMs can use this new knowledge to build Ultrabook-like products at much lower cost. Where does this leave the Ultrabook?
At IFA and IDF over the last week we saw that technologies and techniques from the Ultrabook project are being used in Baytrail-based products where they combine with features, sizes and battery life that meets and exceeds that of ARM-based tablets – the big sellers. For the first time we’re seeing desirable low-cost 2-in-1’s and desirable low-cost Windows tablets. $349 will buy you a Baytrail-T based 2-in-1 with 11 hours of battery life, 1KG in weight and enough power to run Windows 8.1 smoothly. $299 is likely to be the price-point for a good 8-inch ‘do-it-all’ Windows tablet.
Currently, 2-in-1 Ultrabooks reach down to around $650 and offer more processing power but at weights of 5lb, the consumer is going to be put off. In terms of consumer-friendly products, Baytrail is better positioned than Ultrabooks.
Where does this leave Ultrabooks? What unique position does the Ultrabook hold? What purpose does the Ultrabook project have?
Unique markets remain for the Ultrabook and it’s all about ‘best-in class.’ At the top we have business Ultrabooks like the Lenovo Thinkpad range. Then we have gaming Ultrabooks like the ASUS Zenbook Infinity. We have basic but high-power clamshells that offer desktop-like performance for small businesses, developers, video editors and other creation-focused customers. Convertibles with digitizers are in the Ultrabook space. As for 2-in-1’s I’m happy to say there’s space for them too. We’ve seen 780 gram Y-Series tablets over the last week which means you don’t have to compromise on performance as you do with Baytrail. With next-gen Broadwell (2014) we’ll see Ultrabooks offer huge performance advantages over Baytrail but with few of the compromises.
Baytrail is the best fit in the emerging 2-in-1 category. Entry-level laptops based on Baytrail will offer best-price, consumer targeted solutions that Ultrabooks and other Core-based solutions can’t but it’s quality and advanced technology you need for a productive, secure solution and Ultrabooks remain reliably the best-fit for that. More importantly, the Ultrabook project continues to be critical for the future development of the PC.
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