updated 11:10 pm EDT, Mon September 19, 2011
Acer, Compal ask Intel to cut costs to match Apple
Acer Taiwan's president Scott Lin and Compal's equivalent Ray Chen have both put out public complaints that Intel isn't cutting chip prices to let their ultrabooks compete with the MacBook Air. Lin insisted that Acer and other Windows PC builders couldn't get below $1,000 with their ultraportables without a subsidy while meeting the performance targets. His PC firm and others would have to either use slower processors or reduce their marketing, according to Digitimes' account of events.
In turn, Chen was more urgent and saw the lack of discounts as threatening the Intel-Windows monopoly. If Windows-based ultrabooks made by companies sourcing from Compal suffered from poor sales because of high prices relative to the MacBook Air, Apple would be the only one enjoying a "strong profit," he said. He was concerned the "Wintel alliance" would need to take some kind of action lest the whole group suffer at the same time.
Despite its $300 million ultrabook fund, Intel hasn't seriously entertained price drops, unofficial sources said. For notebook makers, it's believed to be a vicious cycle keeping them out, where ultrabook orders have dropped by as much as half because of low component shipments.
Apple is in a rare position for itself in the computer industry through the Air. Normally stereotyped as having more expensive systems for the features, the company has experience with premium parts like aluminum shells, lithium-polymer batteries, and solid-state drives that has helped it keep prices down and beat rivals trying to match its style. Windows builders like Acer are believed to be hunting for alternate materials and may have low production runs out of concerns that an ultrabook market might not exist beyond what Apple has created.