We’ve seen a lot of changes in technology over the last decade or two. Recently we’ve seen the death of PDAs, the rise of smartphones, and the birth of both netbooks and tablets. There is one common theme in all the technology that has surfaced, portability and Internet-optimized connectivity.

Some would argue the PDA didn’t exactly die; it just evolved into the smartphone and the tablet. When netbooks arrived on scene they were low-powered (early models even used low-end 900MHz Celeron before the Atom arrived), and fairly cheap.

Today the tablet is really starting to take over where the netbook market began, although some people will likely always prefer the keyboard/touchpad design of a netbook over a tablet. Tablets aren’t nearly as powerful as a notebook but they are on par with many of the basic netbook setups.

Soon you will likely start to see more and more tablets that can also fold out a keyboard to become a hybrid netbook, making the netbook less appealing than it is today. As hybrid netbook/tablets start arriving on the scene what does that mean for basic netbooks? It could mean diminished market share among consumption users. For productivity users, however I see a future in Ultra-Thin notebooks, specifically Intel’s new Ultrabook specification.

So what is an Ultrabook? An ultrabook is essentially a very thin netbook with a larger screen and more power behind the hood. Intel has been very strict on the Ultrabook specification and they are shaping up to be a head-to-head competitor with the Macbook Air.

While the netbook has never had an official specification, Intel is requiring certain criteria is meet in order to consider a notebook as part of the new “Ultrabook” class. Right now the specifications are as follows:

  • Laptops with 13 inch displays can be no thicker than ~.71 inch. Laptops with larger displays can be no thicker than ~.82 inch.
  • Wi-Fi Connectivity must be standard.
  • Intel’s new Rapid Start technology must be in place. This new technology uses flash memory embedded in an Intel chipset to improve boot times.
  • Battery life must be at least five hours. By 2013 this specification will be raised to 10 hours.
  • Prices must be near $999 or less. This last one is more of a goal than a strict requirement though.

The appeal for the Ultrabook will be that you can have a highly portable device for business and personal travel/mobility without having to sacrifice power. Netbooks are nice but you just can’t run some of the higher end programs on them without really dealing with serious lag. Tablets are great mobile devices but for productivity a keyboard and more horsepower really is necessary.

According to Intel they expect more than 40 percent of the laptop market by 2012 to be Ultrabooks. This claim is undoubtedly over-optimistic. At the same time, however the market researching firm, HIS-iSuppli, predicts that 40 percent share could certainly be achieved at the current growth rate by around 2015.

It’s very likely that Windows 8 will play a heavy role in how well Ultrabooks are adopted. With ultrabook touch models on the horizon, Windows 8 is set to take advantage of the extra horse-power and Metro is set to optimize the touch experience. The market trend is seeing netbooks losing share, mainly sticking around for productivity purposes.

Unfortunately, the netbook provides a subpar productivity experience. For extreme mobile experiences and consumption we have tablets. The market is changing and it’s less likely that netbooks have a place in the technological world of the future.

The largest hindrance for Ultrabook adoption is the price tag. By 2013 or later, will this be a problem? As rapidly as technology changes it will be likely that soon Ultrabooks will only be around $600-$800 and the gap in price between them and tablet/netbooks will be much closer.

Companies like AMD say that the Ultrabook will have a hard time competing with the Macbook Air but only time will tell.

What do you think? Does the Ultrabook have a bright future ahead of it? Will tablets and Ultra-Thins end up being the death knell to the netbook? Share your thoughts below!

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One Comment
  1. Ultrabooks will have a future if they are something else than Macbook Air copycats.
    Seriously, if expect PC, both desktops and laptops, to undergo major evolutions in the coming years.
    I hoped that Windows 8 would be aimed exclusively at a whole new generation of PC and that Microsoft would release some kind of Windows 7 R2 for all legacy PC. Unfortunately, it is not the case.

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