On The Move


Ultrabooks, tablets and what’s under the hood


The ASUS UX21 touted as the first of the new Ultrabooks was introduced at Computex Taiwan on May 31st 2011 and it’s using Intel processor: Intel Core i5-2557M 1.7GHz. The Ultrabook is a class of mobile computer that is competing with Apple’s Macbook Air introduced late last year. It looks like the UX21 uses mini HDMI and x2 USB3.0 for external interfaces, WiFi and SATA-III SSD and no camera (which is a surprise to me).
See video of the ASUS UX21 here:

Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini mentioned at the company’s analyst call in May ’11 that PCs will enter a more mainstream consumer-like era and provide Ultra-slim and low power but still highly capable computing platforms. Intel with the help of Asus follows this strategy.
As a leading semiconductor provider that its processors power ~80% of the world’s PCs Intel cannot ignore the changing computing and mobile industry landscape. In my opinion, Intel will do everything to introduce new categories close to Intel’s sweet spot of high performance computing platforms which are somewhat more remote than the mobile handset or Smartphone makers. The successful introduction of the Netbook category in 2007 is an evidence of a strategy that worked in past.
There is no question about the need to use personal computers in whatever shape or form to generate content and provide a platform for productivity. This need is and will be covered mostly by Intel’s processors going forward and the PC segment will not die any time soon as is seen by the 25% year-over-year growth Intel reported in Q1 2011. The question that is left is, when will Intel processors be used to power tablets or Smartphones?

It’s clear that Intel will go after mobile applications by tuning its x86 micro-architecture for low power consumption while ARM is an existing provider of processors to mobile applications.
The battle between PC and mobile electronics categories is also a battle between processors that are typically used in these platforms. It will be interesting to see how traditional PC makers and traditional mobile handset makers try to shape the next products targeting content generation and consumption. Adding consumer electronics to the mix makes this battle even more interesting.

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Corrected for omissions on 6/4/11 12:30AM PST

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