The planet seems to be wondering why Ultrabooks haven’t taken off to “save” the PC market during a tumultuous time of tableteering, where iPads rule the roost, Android tablets try to morph into notebooks, and a brand new Microsoft OS looms large.
iTWire colleague Peter Dinham’s article on Lenovo giving HP a run for its money in the PC market covers the Gartner stats that show Ultrabooks haven’t yet become the mega-super-hit that Intel and OEMs hoped, but the question is why?
It’s all a matter of timing, blended in with the inexpensive from US $399 tablet craze, given this is the starting price for Apple’s 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2.
When you simply want to do basic computing tasks, like email, web, search, social networking, gaming, app discovery and more, what in Steve Ballmer’s name do you need a PC for?
However, the fact that people are still most comfortable with a keyboard and mouse to do “serious work” is still an idea firmly entrenched in people’s minds, no matter how many cool and seriously useful business apps and business cases there are for using iPads in business today.
Ultrabooks are simply super-thin notebooks, and consumers know two things: they’re not cheap, and they’re not tablets.
When you get a “cheap” notebook, you’re usually either getting one that’s underpowered, and way thicker than you’d expect with any iPad, MacBook Air or Windows-powered Ultrabook.
There’s also the conundrum of waiting to see what brand new tablet/ultrabook hybrids are unleashed when Windows 8 launches – a launch that will see downgrade rights to Windows 7 stay available for two years on most qualifying Windows 8 machines, thus putting to rest any worries that moving on from Windows 7 will be too troublesome, especially in the early days.
But people are likely also concerned that a Windows 8 hybrid tablet/ultrabook will be even more expensive than today’s Ultrabooks, especially when, in the US at least, Apple’s least expensive MacBook Air starts at US $999, which is roughly on par with its most powerful and 3G/4G-enabled new iPad.
In Australia, quality and speedy Ultrabooks retail for well over the $1000 mark, often close to $1500, and for this money, you can pick up three or possibly even four iPads depending on the version and its capabilities, and if you’re wanting to be frugal, what are you going to go for?
A thick, underpowered notebook, or an iPad, which retains its uber-cachet no matter whether its an iPad 2 or a new iPad that you’re getting?
Consumers are also no fools – they know well that when Windows 8 launches, it will be accompanied by the mother of all marketing campaigns and sales, leading to both cheaper Windows 7 machines, sexier new Windows 8 machines – and those all important Christmas and end-of-year sales where prices will be knocked down even further – let alone the sales that will happen once the Christmas hoopla has ended and the Boxing Day and new year’s sales begin.
Part of the problem also lies in the fact that consumers are often given a preview into what will be sold by the end of the year right at the beginning of the year at events such as the Consumer Electronics Show.
There, we get to see versions of the hybrid tablets that are coming, especially for Windows 8 – and of course, Microsoft’s own OEM-innovation-busting Surface Tablet has also set the tablet cat amongst the ultrabook pigeons.
Intel and its OEMs seem to be three or four years late in getting Ultrabooks to the party, effectively having ceded the market to Apple since 2007, leaving Apple with arguably the very sexiest, coolest, fastest and best non-tablet ultrabooks available, making Intel Ultrabooks look like a bunch of Apple copycats.
None of that is to say that Intel-based Ultrabooks are bad. Indeed, quite the reverse – they’re arguably the very best and most mobile PCs ever created, or at least, until Microsoft’s Surface tablet broke through the surface and suddenly made Ultrabooks that much less attractive.
The thing is, Ultrabooks are but a step on the journey to the ultimate tablet/ultrabook hybrids, and given they’re only a few months away at most, let alone the stunning designs we’ll surely see in 2013 – all of this adds up to a massive no-brainer as to why Ultrabooks haven’t – as yet – saved the PC industry.
This time next year, however, and if Windows 8 is the success that Microsoft clearly plans it will be – things could be very different, with Ultrabook Tablets at affordable prices the way of the future – and the saviours of the PC industry they were destined to be.