Intel Capital throws $300M at Ultrabook project

Intel's investment arm, Intel Capital, has reaffirmed the company's commitment to the thin-and-light Ultrabook venture with the founding of a $300 million fund to developed new technologies to help the project get off the ground.

The Ultrabook project, exemplified by the Asus UX21 unveiled at Computex earlier this year, aims to create ultra-slim laptops in the vein of the MacBook Air from Apple. It's Intel's big gamble on the traditional laptop market, aiming to reinvent the concept before it sees the tablets - and its British chip design rival ARM - take over.

The Ultrabook project's goals are simple: create laptops of less than 21mm thickness - and preferably closer to 18mm - with high-end processors, plenty of RAM, and as much battery life as you can get.

It's something which will take a while to achieve, for all that manufacturers like Asus are touting products already. Intel has detailed the 'phases' of the project as extending over several years, and this latest announcement suggests that the technology basis for the Ultrabook project won't mature for at least another three years.

"Ultrabook devices are poised to be an important area for innovation in the $261 billion global computer industry," claims Intel Capital president Arvind Sodhani. "The Intel Capital Ultrabook fund will focus on investing in companies building technologies that will help revolutionize the computing experience and morph today’s mobile computers into the next ‘must have’ device."

The fund, which will total $300 million, aims to invest in companies building hardware and software technologies that fit with the Ultrabook's central goals: improving battery life to allow all-day computing from a single charge; increasing storage capacities without increasing size or weight; enhancing the user experience through new interfaces; and innovating in the field of physical product design to create something which Apple would be proud to call its own.

The Ultrabook Fund joins Intel Capital's previous technology-specific porfolios, including the Digital Home Fund which sought to invest in companies innovating in home automation and entertainment and the Communications Fund for improving networking technologies.

Intel Capital has confirmed that the funding won't appear as a lump sum, instead being invested over the next three-to-four years. While that will likely come as a relief to investors, it does suggest that Intel's Ultrabook programme won't have reached its true technological peak until at least 2014, well into 'Phase Three' - the release of the Haswell microarchitecture - of the project.