The last few days have been awash with touchscreen equipped ultrabooks, with companies like Acer, Asus, and Samsung showing off their take on the marriage of Microsoft's Windows 8, and Intel's energy efficient Ivy Bridge chipset.
Intel is chasing the demand for "mobile on-ramps," getting devices equipped with Intel-hardware in front of the growing demand for internet connected devices. There are currently 35 different ultrabooks on the market, and Intel expects the total to rise to 110 ultrabooks by the end of the year.
It's a bit of a gamble: the company is counting on consumers to adopt touchscreen ultrabooks at a rapid pace. Thomas Kilroy, Senior Vice president of Intel's Sales and Marketing group, explained that Intel is "expecting volume for ultrabooks to kick in 3rd quarter for back to school." And the company plans on helping things along: the company is investing in a number of factories and corporations that develop touchscreen panels, focused on creating touchscreen displays that are 13-inches and larger to surpass forecasted demand for touch-friendly products.
"We must keep innovating."
Intel has high hopes for the future of the ultrabook platform, but we've seen some lapses in the category over the last few months — low cost ultrabooks that technically meet ultrabook requirements, but lack the premium experience Intel seemed to suggest ultrabooks would offer. We had a moment to chat with Thomas Kilroy after the Intel keynote, and he worked to assuage our concerns. "It's not just about the requirements," Kilroy remarked.
The chip giant took notice of some user experience issues with the first batch of ultrabooks, like the trackpad on the Asus Zenbook UX31, which sorely disappointed us when we had the opportunity to review it. So Intel went back to the manufacturers. The company still holds sway over the ultrabook branding, and the company was able to "course correct" some of underlying problems it saw. This sort of interaction would need to continue, and Kilroy commented that Intel is committed to working with OEMs "to ensure that those specs and standards are up to the highest quality."
Intel isn't standing still: In the next few months, we'll see Ultrabooks that support their vPro security technology, low voltage mobile processors, enhanced security features — including sensors that will set off alarms if someone attempts to abscond with your PC — and improved support for facial recognition, and hand gestures. Let's not forget sensors: gyroscopes, accelerometers, GPS units, temperature sensors — all manner of data collection technologies for developers to utilize and develop applications for. As manufacturers clamor to jump onto the ultrabook bandwagon, we can expect many more designs to roll out over the course of the next year. It'll be up to Intel to maintain a high level of quality, if consumer confidence in yet another category is to be maintained. Remember netbooks?