Intel pushes ultrabooks toward channel and business users

NEW ORLEANS — Momentum around ultrabooks has only just begun and the opportunity for the channel around the lightweight PCs will be major, Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) told partners and customers during its Solutions Summit event.

“It’s easy for the Intel guy to stand on the stage and declare the PC is not dead,” said C.J. Bruno, vice-president and general manager of sales and marketing at Intel. “We’ve undertaken an effort to revolutionize computers again.”

Intel has created the ultrabook category as a lightweight, budget-friendly alternative to the traditional laptop and it’s still on a journey, with specifications already changing since several models were released during the holiday 2011 season, according to several Intel executives.

Related story: First-Gen ultrabook prices may drop by 25 per cent

Today, there are 18 ultrabook models on the market. By the end of 2012, Intel has committed to growing that number to 75, Kirk Skaugen, corporate vice-president and general manager of Intel’s PC client group, told partners during the event.

“It’s still very early and we’ve been absolutely blown away by the acceptance of ultrabooks,” said Mike Nwankwo, an Intel executive.

Mike Ray, Intel’s North America channel sales manager, echoed that, and told CDN he thinks ultrabooks will take off even faster than tablets did when vendors first began introducing their models.

He also said he sees great potential for ultrabooks in Canada, especially after recently visiting Quebec and Ontario. “It just seemed like there was a lot of hunger for technology,” he said, and that consumers here are tech-savvy.

Aesthetic choices from various manufacturers is also important for marketing ultrabooks.“Your device is an extension of you,” Nwankwo said. Having something ultra-sleek is useful but also reflects personal choice. “I am not afraid to take this thing out in front of my kids.”

This year will see the launch of new ultrabook models using the company’s 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge) core processors, which will improve graphics performance by more than 80 per cent, according to Intel.

Even though ultrabooks have been a consumer play thus far, Intel insists they’re inherently appealing to businesspeople, especially road warrior workers who demand long battery life and a lightweight device with security features such as anti-theft technology.

Related story: Ultrabook shipments could hit 178 million by 2016

In the second half of 2012, there will be a wave of models using Intel’s vPro security technology, pushing the consumer laptops toward more business-minded users, Skaugen said. Over time, the channel will see McAfee security technology integrated into ultrabooks as well.

During his keynote, Skaugen also demoed some convertible ultrabook concepts that make it useable as a tablet, which is one future design direction.

ltrabook models in 2013 will use the company’s upcoming Haswell architecture. Form factors will shrink over time, as Intel works with panel, battery and, solid state drive and hard drive vendors, he said. By next year, ultrabooks will also consume 20 times less power in standby mode than they do today.

In April, Intel will also launch an ultrabook marketing campaign, its largest effort since 2003’s effort touting its Centrino brand.The campaign will include traditional broad market advertising, but will also feature heavy online and social media presence.

“In a big way, the goal of this big campaign is to create a lot of demand and a lot of awareness that allows our channel partners to really get into this business,” Ray said.

Price points will likely begin at $699 by the second half of this year, according to Michelle Johnston, Intel’s general manager of channel platforms and strategy. With more volume will come a broader range of price points, but even at above the $699 mark, users will be willing to pay for the value ultrabooks bring, Ray said.

Intel also announced in August a $300 million ultrabook fund to drive development of the products and drive down prices.

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Harmeet Singh
Harmeet Singh
Harmeet reports on channel partner programs, new technologies and products and other issues relevant to Canada's channel community. She also contributes as a video journalist, providing content for the site's original streaming video. Harmeet is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism.

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