Intel details future Ultrabook 'phases'

Intel has detailed the 'three phases' of its Ultrabook project, which began with the launch of the ultra-low voltage Sandy Bridge-based Intel Core chips back in June and will ultimately lead, the company hopes, to a wealth of devices which can take on the MacBook Air and win.

The Ultrabook concept was first outed by Asus at the Computex event in Taipei earlier this year in the form of its UX21 ultra-slim laptop. Powered by a custom Intel Core chip, the UX21 is a thin wedge of aluminium that offers surprising power - with the option of a high-speed top-end Core i7 chip suggested for launch - in a passively cooled and ultra-light package.

While Asus didn't directly refer to it as such, the UX21 was the first sighting of an Ultrabook. The name given to Intel's MacBook Air-inspired reinvention of the netbook concept, Ultrabooks are full-performance ultra-portables designed to offer the full PC experience in as small a package as possible.

The Ultrabook launch will, Intel has clarified, take the form of three distinct phases. Phase One was the introduction of the ULV Core chips - or, as Intel would have it, the 'second Generation Intel Core processors' - back in June.

Phase Two, the company claims, will be the launch of the next-generation Ivy Bridge chips in the first half of 2012 which will bring with it improved power efficiency, boosted performance for general computation and GPU tasks, and the promise of 'enhanced security' through embedded system tracking functionality.

Finally, Phase Three is the launch of the next-generation Haswell micro-architecture, which adds new instructions - known, oddly enough, as the Haswell New Instructions or HNI - to the processor. "With Haswell, Intel will transform the computing experience with more power efficient processors that allow a more dynamic experience in insanely sleek systems," claims a post on the Technology@Intel blog by Becky Emmett.

The promises of the Ultrabook design - which should start appearing later this year in the form of first-generation devices from manufacturers including Asus and HP - include a design of less than 21mm thick, Intel's Rapid Start Technology for instant-on performance, and a minimum of five hours of battery life.

"Here's the thing: we are totally jazzed about all of this," Emmett claims. "It's a good time to be working in this industry and it's an awesome time to be working at Intel. It's also a fantastic time to be a user of technology - never before have we had so many choices of devices to suit our personal needs and lifestyles. If you think today's variety of computing devices is exciting, you ain't seen nothing yet."

While there are no Ultrabooks to be seen yet - aside from the not-actually-an-Ultrabook MacBook Air from Apple, which includes many of the features and specifications of the real deal - Asus and HP are engaged in a race to be the first to launch their respective devices.