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Is 2012 the Year of the Ultrabook?

Is 2012 the Year of the Ultrabook?

  • Comments 5

 The media is constantly going on and on about iPads and other tablet computers, but computer makers this year seem to be betting on a different type of computing device – the ultrabook.

Most ordinary people I talk to about ultrabooks haven’t a clue what they are, but the fact remains that over 50 different ones debuted at the Consumer Electronic Show recently.

Just after the show, Sean Nicholson from Microsoft sent me a roster of new green Windows PCs, including the Toshiba Portégé Z835 ultrabook that has a mercury free-LED display and halogen-free printed wiring board. Laptops and now ultrabooks are much more energy efficient than desktop computers, and so in that aspect, can be regarded as green IT devices.

What Is an Ultrabook?

If you don’t already know, I’m afraid you’re in for a disappointment. Ultrabooks are light, thin, laptop computers with long battery life and that cost under $1,000. The first and foremost of them was and probably still is the Apple MacBook Air. The Macbook Air has been around since early 2008, and frankly struggled in its first years with poor sales and technical problems.

A redesigned, lower cost version came out in 2010 and it took off. Ultrabooks are now being made by nearly all major computer makers. According to James Kendrick, Intel is predicting that 40 percent of all laptops sold will be ultrabooks by the end of 2012.

Intel in fact is all over this new development. The company trademarked the term, ultrabook, and defines it as is a laptop that:

  • Is less than 20mm (0.8 inches) thick
  • Has no optical (CD or DVD) drive
  • Uses a flash drive for storage instead of a conventional mechanical hard drive
  • Uses a Core i5, i7 processor (including Apple Macbook Airs)
  • Weighs less than 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs.)
  • Has 5 to 8 hours of battery life
  • Is priced at around $1,000 or below

Most of them now seem to have small 13 inch screens, but are expected to be designed with larger screens in the near future. Comparing them with tablets is interesting. They’re nearly as convenient and portable, but have a fully functional keyboard and are expected to come down in price pretty quickly.

To quote James Kendrick again, “while netbooks were essentially a flash in the pan, quickly getting big sales numbers and fading just as fast, ultrabooks are here to stay. Netbooks went the underpowered route to acheive cost effectiveness, and many owners quickly tired of the corner-cutting. Ultrabooks are full laptops, with good performance packed in a highly portable form. In spite of the fancy new marketing term, they are the natural evolution of the bigger laptops, and they’ll be around for a good while, post-PC era or not.”

What do you think of ultrabooks for nonprofits and libraries? Are you buying them or planning them into your tech budget?

Photo: kenworker

  • I'm not seeing how it could replace the traditional laptop. No hard drive, just a flash drive for storing things? That makes me think back to the days when we had to store everything on floppy discs...  I'm not clear how this is a step forward other than weight & battery life?

  • I think the term "flash drive" is misleading.  They use Solid State Drives (SSDs) which are not removable and can have a fairly large amount of storage.  In addition, they are typically much faster than a hard drive but run cooler, quieter and take less energy.  Definitely a step forward in my opinion.

  • I heartily agree with tm6148.  the SSDs are a step forward, as long as you know the limitations (like do not defrag them).  They are, however, all of the things already mentioned by tm6148, and I am loking to replace the hard drive in my current laptop with one of them.

  • The only additional change needed is for software be be distributed on thumb drives. The comments on HDD are spot on!

    I want one, NOW! My non-profit has a portable classroom with 6 laptops which combined weigh about 60 pounds with the 2 cases that hold them. With ultrabooks we could have 8 or 10 students and still be under 40 pounds.

  • Right, ultrabooks use SSDs and the tradeoff is cost vs. storage capacity... meaning it pushes storage of data into the cloud.

    --Cloud-based storage opens up a whole other can of worms! Cloud-based storage is fine for individuals and private companies, they can assume the risk if they want. But as nonprofit organizations, we get stuck at the data security, safeguarding of assets (info), and ownership/control issues. The terms of service for many of the free cloud storage services are unacceptable to us, and the pro versions or paid versions are barely better. Don't forget that many of these companies use the cheapest providers they can find, meaning the servers may be in Asia. And as any IT security expert can tell us, when the servers--any of them in the chain of servers a provider uses-- are in Asia, the data theft/security risk is huge. Maybe a given. Too much of a risk for our organization to take. I'd like to see that addressed!

    --and...even if our organization does not move to ultrabooks, the bring-your-own-device-to-work trend makes it an issue already, what with tablets, smart phones, and other devices in use. Thepolicies have to be in place and enforced, or nonprofits risk loss and legal problems.

    And I know, it is really hard to keep policies apace with technology when the people in charge are not technically savvy enough to understand the risks.