The Macalope Daily: Triumph

Remember Ultrabooks? 2012’s savior of the PC laptop, the white knight that would rescue Windows OEMs from the low margins and crappy plastic of netbooks? Yeah, didn’t quite turn out that way … until you look closer! And, possibly, put on some X-ray specs and stand on one foot, like CNet’s Dan Ackerman.

“Ultrabook’s quiet triumph”

Are we talking about the same Ultrabook? The Ultrabook that was first estimated would ship 30 million units in 2012 and then 22 million and finally 10 million? That Ultrabook?

While not the buzzword it was in 2012, Intel’s ultrabook has its fingerprint everywhere at CES 2013.

Which is almost like triumphing. Groping vainly at things as you sink into the tar pit of dead PC categories (see: netbooks, thin clients).

But even as the grand ultrabook experiment—a massive branding campaign to create a new laptop category from thin air …

Freudian slip much, Dan?

… shared the stage with smartphones, Atom chips, and tablets, the ultrabook idea continues to be one of the most influential ones I’ve seen in many years of laptop-watching.

Influential with everyone except people actually buying laptops.

The catch is, it’s the ultrabook’s ideas that have spread to nearly every corner of the laptop ecosystem, not the name itself. There are still plenty of new laptops from Lenovo, Dell, and others, that carry the official Ultrabook name (and sometimes the official wrist rest sticker).

Nailed it, Intel.

And that’s the paradox of the ultrabook. After investing $300 million in helping PC companies develop ultrabooks in 2011, we’re still at the point where practically no one walks into a store (or logs into an online store) and says, “I’m shopping for an ultrabook!”

Still, the fact that crappier laptops have been made thinner is kind of like a triumph, right?

Following recent reports of disappointing sales for officially branded ultrabooks, it would be easy to chalk the entire thing up as a misfired attempt to copy the popularity of Apple’s MacBook Air …

Easy and accurate.

But, even if the Ultrabook name (a trademarked Intel marketing term) fades from public view, it has essentially already remade the consumer laptop landscape to the point where every laptop needs to be reasonably thin now to even get a foot in the door.

Turns out the Ultrabook spirit was inside us all the whole time!

So, the next time you buy a Sleekbook, or a Slimbook, Sveltebook, or Skinnybook, take a moment and thank Intel for pushing the concept.

Or, you know, Apple for popularizing it and making a crap-ton of money off of it.

To its credit, though, Intel has finally shaken the Macalope’s long-running joke that all the Ultrabook spec says is “Make it like the MacBook Air.” Now the Ultrabook spec includes touch-screens which, of course, the Air doesn’t have. So, kudos, Intel! Now if you could only find a reason why Ultrabooks need them.

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