Ah, Ultrabook, the poster child of the modern computing era. The very name brings with it connotations of ‘edginess’ and ‘coolness’ as well as a pretty James Bond-ian vibe. While in real life, the term pretty much has no meaning. Intel initially set out strict guidelines for what would come under the umbrella of an ‘Ultrabook’ but OEMs are ignoring them anyway, repeatedly infringing size and battery life guidelines and still calling their devices ‘ultrabooks’ anyway.
Intel's Ultrabooks - are they right for the Indian market?
Looking at it from the perspective of an Indian consumer and after surveying the prices of popular ultrabooks in the Indian market, I see no value in ever buying one, if the pricing does not hit rock-bottom this instant. The main problem is, ultrabooks are trying to enter a somewhat saturated market, where their role isn’t exactly clear. Analysing usage patterns, one can argue that they tend to become somewhat redundant, if the following devices are considered in their stead:
Regular Ol’ Laptops
Though they might not have the word ‘ultra’ in their moniker, regular laptops are pretty magical beasts themselves. Ultrabooks can’t even touch them as far as horsepower is concerned; as they have regular voltage processors instead of CULV (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) ones like Ultrabooks. So the whole ‘they let you do as much’ argument goes in the trashcan. Plus, for the price of an ultrabook, one could buy a pretty capable yet portable high-end laptop, which might not be as battery efficient, but still performs a lot better and does a lot more.
Looking for a more portable computing device that gives you more battery life, provides a more immersive experience and gives you round-the-clock connectivity options? Look no further than tablets. They’re becoming dirt cheap, and are a lot more portable than Ultrabooks, if portability is your major concern. In fact, if you buy, say, an iPad 2 for portable use, along with a bluetooth keyboard AND a mid-end laptop, for home usage, your final bill would still be a lot less than a middle-of-the-road Ultrabook.
The Progenitor of the Ultrabook platform: The Macbook Air
For a long time, one of the major reasons that Windows PCs were a lot more popular than Macs was that there was no hardware/price parity. Windows PCs with more powerful hardware cost a lot less than Macs, hence they sell more in volume. But in this segment, Apple has a pretty strong contender. The Air is generally well designed, more powerful (while benchmarking on Windows 7) and has a better keyboard and trackpad than most Ultrabooks out there, whilst maintaining price parity with similarly specced and similar quality Ultrabooks. You don’t need to have a Masters in Economics to see which one is the better deal here.
The ultimate Ultrabook
But... to finish on a more optimistic note, I still see some potential in Ultrabooks. In fact, I was fairly excited about them before seeing their Indian prices. Such portable computing is a tempting prospect indeed, and once the prices are driven down, and more innovation comes through on the hardware side, they might become a viable purchase. Hold your breath people, because even though they might not make sense now, who knows, with things like Windows 8, Ivy Bridge processors, touchscreens and innovative concepts like the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga on the cusp, along with lower prices, Ultrabooks may yet shape our computing future. Or they could be yet another one of Intel’s failed experiments.
You can connect with Harshit Passi on Twitter @hrshtpassi