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Comment: Ultrabooks Are New, Posher Netbooks

Ultrabooks are turning out to be just like Netbooks except that they are way more expensive and also more likely to be used in a business environment.

Ironically, the first proper Ultrabook was the brainchild of Apple whose Macbook Air was released amidst concerns that, at the time, Apple might lose out to the then-growing threat of Netbooks.

As it turned out, sales of netbooks has all but fizzled out, outclassed by tablets led by the iPad 2, a device from Apple that costs nearly twice as much with half the functionality.

The Macbook Air will almost certainly be the best selling Ultrabook device for 2011 and 2012 by a big margin and, like the iPad 2, will set the benchmark by which other Ultrabooks will be judged.

And because Intel has already issued a reference design for the Ultrabook, OEM partners will have very little leeway and we shall end up with the same scenario as for Netbooks: a race to the bottom with most of the models being nearly identical to each other with very little differentiation.

Having seen how the whole netbook episode panned out, it is no wonder that Intel's partners are edgy to say the least, with the sudden decision of HP to review its position as the world's biggest PC manufacturer making the current era quite volatile.

Add to the mix the launch of Windows 8 for ARM platfroms next year, which is likely to produce even more Ultrabook-like devices, and it sure doesn't look like a good time to be a Taiwanese OEM.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.