back to article Early verdict on Intel Ultrabook™ push: FAIL

Intel's much-ballyhooed ultrabook effort is not working out quite as well as Chipzilla had hoped, with global sales of the thin and light laptops falling well behind expectations. "The volume isn't there and it's going to be way below what Intel had hoped for," IDC analyst Jay Chou told CNET on Wednesday. Intel's vision of …


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  1. LarsG

    It goes to show that consumers have become more canny and see through the advertising spiel.

    Maybe it will be a question of wether to return to the drawing board and stop thinking 'if we build they will buy'.

    The consumer is a thinking entity not a lemming.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Could it be that the consumer wants a laptop with nothing taken out, namely sufficient connectability, a decent sized HD and DVD player as standard, rather than the stripped down things they are trying to sell us.

      We want more for less, not less for more, and most of us don't care it will be a few mm thicker.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Where's the tablet with a DVD drive then?

        Mass market optical media won't be around much longer. It's slow, noisy and bulky.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Where's the tablet with a DVD drive then?

          'Where's the tablet with a DVD drive then?'.

          Tablets are not laptops they are a different thing altogether, DVD is not part of its DNA.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Where's the tablet with a DVD drive then?

            CD/DVD is dying out - can you imagine swinging your tablet around with a spinning disk inside it and how much larger it would make it - these tablets are almost all battery as it is - so adding a CD/DVD drive would make it a chunky beast.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Clearly you have never seen one - the MBA is not just a few mm thinner. At it's thickest it's 1.7cm and tapers all the way down to 3mm at it's thinnest part and weighs just over 1kg. Compared to almost all the laptops I have used before - in volume terms it is probably 1/2 to a 1/3 the size and weight.

        It's not for everyone but it sells well as it meets a need that a lot of people have. It's not the cheapest laptop but it's competitive with all these others copying it and even plugged into a desk it runs Lion fine on a 27" display and Windows 7 runs fine under either bootcamp or in a VM under Parallels.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Agreed- But...

        I still think there's a market for say 20-25% of people who are prepared to compromise on Optical disk and storage for portability.

        The segment obviously exists (or the MBA would have gone off sale) but it isn't perhaps as big as Intel think it is?

        This surprises me though as I'd have thought they'd have been able to work out from what they ship to Apple a good estimate of what their product mix was.

        Personally I use an MBA and don't find the loss of an optical drive to be a major issue, though lack of SSD capacity hurts a little - I'm fine but only have 8gb of space to play with - which by any worthwhile capacity plan is just that bit too tight.

        Equally 'er indoors has a 13in MBP and my son uses a MBP 15in at uni and both chose them over the air (one for optical drive and the other for storage capacity), so in this house at least market share is 33% (how unscientific is that!).

      4. toadwarrior

        Except your claims do not explain why the mac air's sales continue to rise.

        I think it's more that both MS and the hardware companies have relied on doing shit on the cheap with windows bloated out with adware and bugs and that's what people now expect. It doesn't matter if they copy apple. If anything it will validate a consumer's idea that apple is the best because everyone copies them.

    2. joejack

      Absolutely. I love the idea of an Ultrabook, but they're severely underspec'd and overpriced. How many ultrabooks out there with at least

      8GB RAM

      256GB SSD

      1440x900 or better screen resolution

      Core i7

      USB3 or eSATA

      SDXC card slot

      ...that're cheaper than a comparable Macbook Air?

      1. Lallabalalla

        joejack, you've missed the point.

        Your answer is probably "none" - but so what. Go buy a macbook air like everyone else. Clearly no-one can compete on quality at below the price point. Better "specs" maybe but the question always is: Is a "better" computer which no longer works actually better than a "worse" one which still runs like new some years later? The answer's always no.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You can get a 13" Macbook Air with a Core i7, 8Gb RAM, up to 512Gb flash it has the 1440 x 900 screen, USB 3 and the SDXC slot - for a tiny machine it's packs a pretty decent spec. The video speed is decent but it's not a heavy duty gaming rig - but there again a heavy duty gaming rig does not slip into your backpack, weight little over 1Kg, run for hours off an internal battery etc.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          "You can get a 13" Macbook Air with a Core i7, 8Gb RAM, up to 512Gb flash it has the 1440 x 900 screen, USB 3 and the SDXC slot - for a tiny machine it's packs a pretty decent spec."

          Only thing is it costs about the same as the entry level macbook pro retina edition which has a smaller (256GB) SSD, same memory, but double the cores, way higher clock speed, discrete graphics and that screen. £50 cheaper and 650g heavier. It'd be nice if the costings didn't overlap like that as it completely detracts from the Air principally due to the extreme overcharging for the SSD. £400 for 256GB upgrade of soldered on chips?

      3. N13L5

        Goods start, I agree with your specs, but I think you're missing about half of the necessary features!

        If its ultra portable with less features, it had better work outdoors AND in the dark, so:

        1) non-reflective, bright displays are a must.

        2) keyboard with backlight

        Then, if its gonna be so portable, it had better be able to connect in places without WiFi...

        3) needs to have an option for 3G, UMTS etc, like a GOBI 2000 combo with world wide connectivity.

        Also, at around 1000 bucks, we don't want those things to be annoying,

        4) a fairly quiet cooling system is needed

        Since most come without optical drive, it needs to be easy to connect one concurrently with a mouse, so

        5) three USB 3.0 connectors should be obvious.

        At this point, its actually impossible to find all of this in one ultrabook. I know, cause I tried. I could not find what I wanted, so I didn't buy one yet. Who wants to spend over a thousand bucks and still end up with a compromise thats not dictated by whats possible, but simply cause manufacturer's aren't flexible enough in offering configuration. Dell pretty much cut configurability out of ultrabooks. There's nothing you can configure, just add mice and bags and insurance. Most of them do not offer a glare type and a matte display. That should be a no brainer, to at least offer it. Not all consumers are retarded, people buy their mirrors at Bed & Bath.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It goes to show that consumers, and companies even more so, are not will to pay more than they have to for what is still a Windows PC. It is a pure commodity market. Low bid always wins.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "The consumer is a thinking entity not a lemming."

      No, it's not that; it's that the Apple has already managed to monopolize the lemming supply.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well...

        @No, it's not that; it's that the Apple has already managed to monopolize the lemming supply.'

        Unmask yourself Anonymous Coward!

        But never a truer sentence said.

        1. Lallabalalla

          Re: Well...

          What utter BS.

          Is there *any* possibility that high volumes of sales are directly attributable to the quality of the product (hint - the answer is "yes")

          Or are the millions of Zafira owners in fact "lemmings" rather than families who have realised that a 5/7 seater with a massive boot and ample roof space with an economical engine and all the niceties like ABS, aircon & blah perfectly meets their needs despite its few shortcomings? Substitute any product here for Zafira and when you get around to trying "iMac" for size try not to be blinded by the giant flash of prejudice that will doubtless have you reashing for the thumbs-down button like some Pavlovian pooch...

          1. tybalt

            Re: Well...

            Zafiras - awful things (the first generation at least). The 1.8 petrol gave terrible fuel economy and it drove like a dog. The ride quality was awful. I've had a few as hire cars, and they were among the worst. Only beaten out by a Chevy Matiz which appeared to have brakes made of chocolate. The Focus 1.6 auto is also in my top five worst cars ro drive too - utterly and totally gutless, thanks to a shit 4 speed auto and very little power.

            1. Pete B

              Re: Well... @tybait

              I see your Chevy Matiz and raise you a Vauxhall Insignia - just had one as a hire car and easily the worst thing I've ever driven.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: massive boot

            Zafiras are horrible things. And the massive boot is taken up by the rear most of the seven seats.

            I've got a Galaxy myself.

            I'm not sure how they compare in price / numbers, but they are a far superior car.

          3. Ian Johnston Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Well...

            If the quality is so high, how come all Apple laptop sales put together are about a fifteenth of the total market?

            1. Lusty Silver badge

              Re: Well...

              "Re: Well...

              If the quality is so high, how come all Apple laptop sales put together are about a fifteenth of the total market?"

              Because most people are too poor to buy apple products so they settle for a bigger, lower quality pc laptop. Apple don't need 90% market share as they are a high margin product company who focus on quality rather than quantity. This is similar to the way that very few people eat at Michelin star restaurants. It's not that they choose not to, it's just that McDonald's is more within budget.

              1. a53

                Re: Well...

                It's not that they choose not to, it's just that McDonald's is more within budget."

                Never eaten at a McDonalds and never will. I'd rather eat at home 6 months of the year so I can afford a treat at a high quality restaurant. The wait makes the meal even more memorable.

      2. CheesyTheClown Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Hey, I'm one of those lemmings!

        When the new Mac books arrived, I bought an old mac book air at a discount. Saved nearly $200 and the machine specs are basically the same as the new one.

        That said, I immediately deleted OS X from the machine, installed Windows 7 pro and have loved it since. I did try to get a refund for OS X, but it appears the money they "Charge" for it isn't enought to justify asking for a refund ;(

        Quit busting on us lemmings!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you actually used one you would realise how good the MBA is - I have to carry a laptop around all the time - it's a fast, quiet, small and light laptop - rugged, well made, good screen, flash storage. For what I require it ticks a lot of the right boxes. Sure it's not going to run the latest 3D games at 60 FPS but it's not what it's designed for - would be like whinging your 2 seater sports car was rubbish at carting the whole family, a weeks worth of clothes and the dog...

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Crap keyboard

        I've tried to use the MBA as well as other current Apple products.

        Anything with an Apple keyboard attached simply sucks great big donkey balls.

        I've had durable and reliable laptops from PC vendors before. I realize that they aren't some myth. I also realize that Apple hardware breaks too. I've seen it for myself. Usability and capability would come first, then followed by the things that Apple users value.

        So it is little surprise that what might go over well in the Apple enclave might not work so well for the rest of the market.

        We've already done that netbook thing already.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Crap keyboard

          I've had durable and reliable laptops from PC vendors before.

          Indeed. I've had numerous Thinkpads (courtesy of my employer), and they've all been extremely durable and reliable. I still have a Lenovo L-series Thinkpad that's about six years old that I still use occasionally, and an IBM R-series that's about nine years old that I fire up once in a while. My personal laptop is a three-year-old Lenovo Thinkpad that hasn't been any trouble. I've also had a couple of Dell Latittudes that, while never my favorite machines (Dell always manages to work in some bizarre minor design fault), have been quite reliable; the first did eventually need a keyboard replacement, but only after three years.

          These are my primary work machines, aside from the one personal-use laptop (and that I use for my academic work, so it's doing similar stuff). They're in use for thousands of hours a year. They get carried around and abused - more than once I've dropped or knocked a Thinkpad onto a hard floor. They're doing heavy work: builds and test runs with lots of I/O and a fair bit of computation.

          On the other hand, my wife and daughter are Apple fans, and I can't count how many times we've had to replace or repair an Apple desktop or laptop. Quite a few, anyway.

          Anecdotal evidence doesn't count for much, but it certainly shows that there are quality PC laptops available.

    6. Euripides Pants Silver badge

      consumers, lemmings, thinking

      The consumer *is* a lemming, the human is a thinking entity.

  2. pixl97

    Low interest

    Not very many people I know are interested in the Ultrabooks. Most of them have a tablet or smart phone as their true portable, and then have a larger laptop that's a luggable desktop replacement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Low interest

      That's very true, I always used to prefer smallish laptops for their portability, but now that there are real pocketable computers it's more appealing to have a full-size laptop that covers 80% of my previous laptop use, and also eliminates the need for a desktop machine. The 20% of truly portable use can almost all be handled by a mobile device.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Low interest

      They are even more the market - people will use tablets and then not be content with a heavy, bulky laptop. Guess the solution is a keyboard / mouse / trackpad for a tablet to turn it into a laptop or stick with your tablet and have an ultra notebook.

      I'm guessing most people who have laptops do not lug them around all that much (as you would want something smaller and lighter) - many I see are near-permanently on desks - it's not a criticism it's actually good sense. I saw a place where they all had laptops and locked them all away at night as they frequently got broken into and the cost / time to get working again was too high and getting a lot of extra security and a guard was far more expensive than buying new laptops for the 10-15 staff.

  3. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally... fit the same format as the Macbook photo, or is that how it came from Intel?

    Because, clearly, it HAS been stretched, making (intentionally or purposefully) the Ultrabook look thinner in proportion to its length.

    If El Reg did it, that's sloppy, if Intel did it, that's lying.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

      It got stretched so much the headphone jack got round again or....?

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

        "It got stretched so much the headphone jack got round again or....?"

        Read my post again; the MacBook photo (BOTTOM of the comparison pair) has NOT been stretched. The Ultrabook (TOP of the pair) has.

    2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

      > Because, clearly, it HAS been stretched, making (intentionally or purposefully) the Ultrabook look thinner in proportion to its length.

      The ultrabook photo is showing the front edge, thus it shows the _width_ of the device. The Macbook photo is of the side, showing the length from front to back.

      The ultrabook does look thinner because the photo has a very shallow depth of field so anything beyond the front edge blurs out and also is lost by perspective.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

        Further to that, Apple probably has a design patent on a photo of a hand holding a laptop showing its side view, so Intel had to show the front view.

      2. Goat Jam

        Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

        You can tell it is stretched because both photo's use the exact same stock photo for the hand. If you ignore the different colour saturations and the stretching effect, you can see that the skin details are identical between the two.

        I beleive that the stretching was done by intel IIRC, it was discussed here when it was first published.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

          I recall the discussion of it being a stock photo also. I still find it odd neither company could find a real person to actually hold one or even a mockup. Do hand models and photographers really charge so much money or is it just so much easier to hire a kid with photoshop?

          1. Franklin

            Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

            "Do hand models and photographers really charge so much money or is it just so much easier to hire a kid with photoshop?"

            I used to have a client who was a hand model. Yes, they really do charge that much money. If I had the hands for it, I'd change careers in a heartbeat.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

        The macbook air is 1.7cm at it's thickest (back / hinge) and just 3mm at it's thinnest (front).

      4. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Did you stretch the Ultrabook photo horizontally...

        As someone else pointed out, the creases in the hands are (with allowances for the stretched horizontal axis) in exactly the same places. No two people's hands will do that. Grated that they COULD have used the same person both times but, even then, there are likely to be visible differences on different occasions. Secondly, bend your fingers and look at the "platform" that your bent knuckles make. If you are like most people, that platform makes a (more or less) right angle to the sides of the finger and the finger segment is (again, more or less) a rectangle -- it HAS to be, for the fingers to bend in one plane.

        Look at the "platform" at the bent knuckles in the pictures. In the MBA photo that platform is, essentially, a right angle, as it should be. Now look at the knuckles in the UB™ photo. The platform makes an oblique angle and the finger segments appear as more oblique parallelograms than rectangles. With the platform between the finger bones at that sort of angle, the fingers simply could not bend the way that they are shown. If you stretch a rectangle an angle to the axes, you get exactly that sort of oblique parallelogram

  4. asdf Silver badge


    It must be nice to be able to weather billion+ dollar disasters like Intel and Microsoft (Ultrabooks, Itanium, Kin, Zune, Bing, etc) do all the time.

    1. Mark .

      Re: wow

      The Zune thing is a myth - sure, it didn't get to be number one, but that doesn't make it a complete flop. Unless you count the Iphone as a flop too, for being beaten by Symbian and now Android (or Nokia and now Samsung, by company). It's the same old story - MS get 10% in a market and it's a faiure, Apple get 10% in a market, and it's a runaway amazing success...

      For you comment in general, surely a company that never has failures, is one that never succeeds? Success often involves taking risks, and no one succeeds every time.

      1. Joerg

        Re: wow

        iPhone beaten by Symbian and Android? When that ever happened? Nokia is going bankrupt and they killed Symbian (which was a good OS much better than the Android fraud).

        Google Android sells a lot of cheap phones and that's it. Also 90% of those buying Android phones just don't buy apps at all. They either want everything for free or they avoid adding apps.

        1. JEDIDIAH

          Re: wow

          You mean people are cheapskates? Otherwise there would not be a lot of free ad-ware in the Apple store.

          You can BS us about Macs. For phones it's a little harder. They are more widespread and they are subsidized. It's far more likely that one of us will know better and see through your nonsense.

          No. What I desire less with Android is not apps (or paid apps), it's jailbreaking. There is less reason to jailbreak and Android phone.

        2. Levente Szileszky

          Re: wow

          "iPhone beaten by Symbian and Android? When that ever happened?"

          Uhh, every single day since Gingerbread (2.3) shipped around the end of 2010 - how about reading up on the subject instead of posting stupid iCrap like this?

          "Google Android sells a lot of cheap phones and that's it."

          This comment clearly shows that you are clearly way too clueless (to put it mildly) to even argue about phones (forget market data)...

          "They either want everything for free or they avoid adding apps."

          ...yet you attempt it?

          The result is the classic ignorant and laughable iSnobbery... guess what: unlike Apple's "chic Gulag" (copyright J.P. Barlow) that's built on ripoff Android's ecosystem is actually built on free access at every level so it's fine with people not buying apps too.

          Of course, to grasp this concept it would require you to check facts but alas, I don't think it will happen anytime soon.

        3. N13L5

          Re: wow

          haha, Symbian was better than Android?

          Reality distortion much?

          I had 2 Symbian touch screen phones, they sucked, it was annoying to use...

          And then, remember the enormous expense of getting software "signed" to make it installable on a symbian phone, keeping all the small developers out of the market, so Telcos and a few big App makers wouldn't have to compete with independent start ups, cause of the very high cost just to enter the market?

          Nokia was making kneefall after kneefall to Telcos... Kept Skype off their phones for years to please Telcos.

          You think you got any reason to love Nokia over any other corporate foam whippers? All the same bunch of pricks. Microsoft is now trying to get worse than Crapple. May they all die in a fire :)

          Only reason Google gave us something more open, with zero software signing fees is, cause they could see a way to make money off causing a disruption to the established players. No reason to get emotionally attached to Google either, but they did tweak Telco's noses nicely. One of the reasons AT&T didn't hesitate throwing hundreds of millions at promoting Lumias with Micro$hufts locked down OS, in hopes to get people back in the cage.

      2. asdf Silver badge

        Re: wow

        Just to soothe the 1 M$ fanboi in the room yes its nice Apple can weather flops like the Newton and Google can weather flops like Google+. Also I notice you mentioned Zune but didn't say anything about the Kin. WP7 is also in that list now for sure with WP8 coming out.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: wow

        MS get 10% in a market and it's a faiure

        When did the Microsoft Zune capture 10% of the market?

        "research firm NPD said Zune market share was a paltry 2% [in 2009], compared to the iPod's 70%" [1; also appears in 2]

        "IDC's Kevorkian said only 4.8% of those with a portable media player reported [in 2008] having a Zune, while 61% had some sort of iPod" [2]

        And it got worse, again according to NPD: "Apple’s iPod owned about three quarters of the 2010 MP3 player market, according to NPD, while Zune had about 1%" [3].

        The Zune video-streaming service did eventually capture around 18% of that market, apparently[3] - but that's not the Zune device.





  5. Jim McDonald

    As the title says "early". To be fair, there aren't that many *new* Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks out yet - although in the last several weeks refreshes of Sandy Bridge versions have started to come online.

    Remember that Intel only launched the i7 Mobile Ivy Bridge and the i5 Mobile IB is just weeks old. So, the *really good stuff* (at the right price points) either hasn't been shipping very long or is yet to ship. Many have been announced/launched but some don't even have their prices confirmed.

    Case in point - I'm waiting for the Asus Transformer Book which they seem to be holding back for Win8 (IE October). I'd be happy with Win7 and buy one right now if I had the option (assuming the reviews are favourable, otherwise a Samsung Series 9 looks good too).

    However I wish Intel would spend their £250 of their £300M marketing fund on reducing the price they charge the manufacturers so they can hit decent price points! Ultrabooks are supposed to be circa $1,000 in theory yet Intel charge $250 of that.


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