Yesterday at Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC, the company revealed a refreshed version of the MacBook Air, the company’s thin-and-light Ultrabook competitor. Both 11-inch and 13-inch versions are getting Intel’s latest Haswell chips. Apple claims 9 hours of battery life for the 11-inch Air and 12 hours for the 13-inch. While critics have called Ultrabooks ‘MacBook Air Clones’, Apple may be falling behind.
With talk about the potential dilution of the Ultrabook brand one would almost think that Intel hasn’t set clear guidelines about what defines an Ultrabook. On the contrary, whether or not a laptop manufacturer calls a new product an Ultrabook tells me a whole lot about the product right away. PC Advisor has run a story claiming that “The truth is that there are few definitive specifications for an Ultrabook,” apparently not realizing that this is part of the strategy.
Taking the new information into account I’ve updated the timeline for Ultrabook activities. If I get more information I’ll update again. Again, the timeline is my estimation based on information and experience and I’m publishing it to help those that are making plans to buy both 1st and 2nd-gen Ultrabooks in the Q3-Q4 2012 timeframe.
Apple now have a series of patents for the MacBook Air ‘ornamental design’ and we’re wondering just how much this could impact Ultrabook design in the future. When you see approvals for layouts such as the one below, you have to wonder!
Yes, you’re looking at a featureless rectangle that was approved two days ago as Patent US D654072.
The last week has been pretty poor in terms of Ultrabook news. There’s been some discussion about sales numbers and prices (again!), some discussion about the MacBook Air (again) and some discussion about the Transformer Prime as it relates to Ultrabooks (e.g. here and here. Update: Similar here.) I saw a major online PC magazine pump out a raft of generic Ultrabook articles for Google to trawl and to top it off, Lenovo said they couldn’t send us a U300s for testing. Thank goodness Daniel sent us his U300s owner review!
Yesterday’s top Ultrabook theme was the Intel ‘Pop-Up Theater’ Ultrabook video which I thought was cute, but a little weak. Done in the ‘flashmob’ style it felt a like a poor attempt at a viral campaign that copies too much from other set-ups we’ve seen before. It was obviously heavily edited and didn’t really tell anyone about what the Ultrabook was. The Popup Theatre website has 233 tweets and 469 Facebook likes as I write which will grow over time but seems middle-of-the-road; echoing the production.
If any of you are still here after seeing the link, go back and read some of the comments. There’s a huge, and sometimes over-excited, comments section. One thing is for sure, the Ultrabook sector is clearly a HOT topic.
If you want a laugh at a spin on some good news this morning, read the story that Apples share of the Ultrabook market will fall. When you own nearly 100% of the market and you get your first competitors, the only way to go is down. the good news is that sales numbers, the important figures, will rise.
It’s estimated the the MacBook Air now accounts for 28% of all MacBook sales in the US market. Looking at the MBA as a sealed-unit, thin-and-light in a range of traditional notebook solutions, it’s interesting to draw comparisons to the Ultrabook in its larger notebook market.
It’s taken the MBA 3 years to reach this penetration, the same could happen in the Windows notebook category and in a shorter timeframe because I believe much of the reason for the accelerated penetration seen by the MBA is because the platform, as used in all Ultrabooks, now meets or exceeds most customer expectations. In previous generations it didn’t.
I’m not going to do any Ultrabook vs MacBook Air technical comparisons here (feel free in the comments section below) but I have taken the chance to drill down into some sales numbers that show some more dominance by the MBA in this thin-and-light market.
I’ve pulled out two sets of figures from reports and estimates and although there is room for a lot of error here, there are indicators that the MBA is selling at a rate of 300000 units per month.
Intel recently put out a blog update about the upcoming Ultrabooks and on first-pass I wasn’t able to see anything new to report. A second look this evening has me wondering why there’s some important information missing. But first, the update.
I don’t recall Intel saying anything about Ultrabooks having to run Windows so with the MacBook Air highly likely to get an upgrade to Sandy Bridge soon, it could quality as the first Ultrabook. The 11.6” version starts at under $1000 and it’s one of the thinnest, lightest 11.6”-ers you can get.
The latest on the Sandy Bridge upgrade comes from AppleInsider who’s source has told them that a initial production-run using the 32nm Sandy Bridge architecture is scheduled for June. Expect devices to be available soon after, obviously.