While the viability of ultrabooks is being questioned, Lenovo product chief Peter Hortensius believes a drop in prices and the arrival of Microsoft's Windows 8 OS will signal a major shift in laptop computing and trigger more interest in the product category.
"We are bullish on where these kinds of products will go," said Hortensius, who is the senior vice president of the product group at Lenovo. "They will come in the sub-$800 category so they will be much more affordable."
Ultrabook designs are evolving, and touchscreen models will likely appeal to new buyers who will be able to take full advantage of Windows 8, which is a touch-based user interface.
"We also think because of thin and light design points, when you couple them with Windows 8, you see many interesting form factors enabled," Hortensius said.
Lenovo has already shown the IdeaPad Yoga, a tablet-ultrabook hybrid with a touchscreen that can be folded to work either as a tablet or an ultrabook. While Lenovo has done touchscreen laptops before, the previous Windows operating systems were retrofitted with touch capabilities. Microsoft has designed Windows 8 from the ground up with touch as a core feature.
"Windows 8 ... enables a bunch of new capabilities. It enables a new segment," Hortensius said. "Historically when you look at transitions, consumers switch quickly because they want the latest and greatest."
Intel envisioned ultrabooks a year ago as a category of thin-and-light laptops with tablet-like features such as touchscreens, long battery life and always-on connectivity. Intel hopes that ultrabooks will reinvigorate a slumping PC market, which has taken a beating from the growing sales of tablets.
Intel last week said about 30 new ultrabook models with its upcoming Ivy Bridge processors will come with touchscreens. With initial prices above $800, the viability of ultrabooks has been questioned. But Intel has said prices of the devices will come down to $699 by the end of year.
Lenovo agrees with Intel on its vision of ultrabooks from a design perspective, Hortensius said.
Lenovo on Monday introduced the IdeaPad U310 and U410 ultrabooks, which start at $749 and $799 respectively. The new products don't have touchscreens, but more features like touch will be added to the company's ultrabooks, as demonstrated in the IdeaPad Yoga, Hortensius said. The new products are a step further in the evolution of ultrabooks, Hortensius said.
Intel has predicted 40% of all consumer laptop sales will be for ultrabooks by the end of the year. Lenovo's is estimating that 20% to 30% of its consumer laptop sales will be for ultrabooks.