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Ultrabooks Get More Features, Prices, Screen Sizes

1/10/2012 02:54:18 AM Eastern
LAS VEGAS - Tablets may be getting the lion's share of the publicity at International CES, but Ultrabooks will make their presence known with most of the major PC vendors rolling out or demonstrating new models this week.

These ultra-portable, high-end notebooks performed well during the holiday sales period and vendors expect this trend to continue during 2012, as Intel adds more capability and features to the design.

With the initial launch now in its rear-view mirror, Intel is at the show talking up what the second generation of Ultrabooks will feature, said Karen Regis, Intel's consumer client marketing director.

Intel created the Ultrabook concept to help reinvigorate the laptop category and enable it to better compete with the tablet PC category.

A top priority is security, along with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports, Regis said. Intel has also worked to improve the user experience making it more seemless by increasing the performance of the solid state drives and calling for the use of more hybrid SSD/hard disk drives, she said.

This will deliver more storage capacity while at the same time give users a faster over all experience, Regis said.

The company has built in a layer of protection into the hardware that will be needed as the devices go mainstream in the coming years, Regis said.

Touchscreens will also be added to the Ultrabooks portfolio of capabilities, Regis said, but probably not until 2013.

Toshiba's initial foray into the Ultrabook space was with the Portege Z 830 in November at $799. Carrie Cowan, Toshiba's product marketing manager, consumer laptops, said the product has energized the category for Toshiba.

Toshiba also believes mainstream laptop customers would be interested in paying just a bit more for an Ultrabook. So the company the company designed its second model in the segment under its consumer Satellite brand, with a lower price and more mainstream features.

Unlike its initial Ultrabook offering, the Portege Z830 which launched into retail in November at a $799, the new Satellite will be below $699. Exact pricing was not yet available. A ship date is also not set, but expected to be in stores for the back to school selling period.

"OEMs are excited about the opportunity for a higher priced notebook," Regis said. "The [price] race to the bottom that has occurred it he category has hollowed out the middle and we needed something to fill the gap."

Despite the categories excellent start out of the gate it still needs a higher profile, particularly to compete with the MacBook Air.

"More [consumer] education is needed and the industry needs to do more to make the devices fun so we can compete with what is coming out of Cupertino," he said.

Tom Hume, Toshiba's marketing communications director, said Intel's promised $300 million marketing campaign will start up during the first quarter and that should help with the education effort.
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