updated 12:05 am EDT, Tue May 31, 2011
Intel ultrabook idea based on MacBook Air concept
Intel's Sean Maloney opened Computex in earnest with a keynote hoping to redefine the ultraportable notebook class. Now calling them "ultrabooks," Intel saw them as systems that were under 0.8 inches thick but could still start under $1,000. The category included systems like the ASUS UX21 and, by extension, the MacBook Air.
The company saw a broader shift in the industry that would move as many as 40 percent of notebooks over to the ultrabook category by the end of 2012. Existing systems could fit into the category, but the next wave would include Ivy Bridge systems that would refine the experience further with the smaller 22 nanometer manufacturing process and improved speed, including both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 support. A much larger shift might happen with Haswell, a 2013 platform that could cut everyday notebook processor power consumption in half.
Intel's Medfield platform for phones and tablets also got an improved public airing. The 32nm chip was show running Android 3 for the first time and was expected to be the first Intel processor to be capable of genuine, iPad-class dimensions. A device could be under 9mm thick and still weigh less than 1.5 pounds, the chip designer said. Medfield hardware should arrive sometime in the first half of 2012.
Some of the Taipei presentation touched on recent unveilings, including a stepped-up Atom roadmap that would get the category to 14nm Atom chips in three years. In the nearer term, Cedar Trail was mentioned again and would bring both WiDi video streaming as well as PC Synch to share information across multiple devices.
The plans for ultrabooks are expected to play into Apple's hands. The system builder had already described the Air as the "future of MacBooks" and has made clear its intent to move to flash storage, long-lived batteries and very thin designs. It's unclear how much of the ultrabook concept was directly influenced by the Mac, although Intel recently commented that Apple influences its roadmap and may have pushed for more efficient designs.