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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.