IDG News Service - Intel on Wednesday said it would invest $300 million in companies that develop new technologies for Ultrabooks, a class of thin and light laptops promoted as an alternative to tablet PCs.
The Intel Capital Ultrabook Fund will invest in companies developing hardware and software in areas such as sensors and touch, longer battery life, thinner designs and improved storage capacity, Intel said. It will invest the money over three to four years.
The company disclosed its Ultrabook idea at Computex in June. It said the devices would be a new type of laptop with "tablet-like" capabilities such as instant on, touchscreens and batteries that last all day. The first wave is expected toward the end of the year, with more advanced designs appearing in the next few years.
Intel's push for Ultrabooks comes at a time when the chip maker is trying to rejuvenate interest in the PC market, where shipments have slowed due to the popularity of tablets. But beyond competing with tablets, building thinner and lighter products should give laptops more appeal.
"It's a good counter to pretty much everything. They just look at it as enabling the market," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.
Laptops and tablets have different characteristics and Ultrabooks are an attempt to harmoniously merge the two, said Greg Welch, segment director for the mobile client platforms at Intel, in an interview last week.
On an Ultrabook, people will be switching between using a cursor and touching the screen without thinking about it, he said.
Ultrabooks may also be a way to draw users to Intel's higher-end Core chips and away from its Atom and Celeron processors, McCarron said. Atom sales dropped during Intel's second quarter, primarily due to a slowdown in netbook sales, which were hurt by demand for tablets and low-cost laptops with larger screens.
Intel has said Ultrabooks in the future will resemble Apple's MacBook Air, with models less than 21 millimeters (0.8 inches) thick, and at mainstream prices. The company has showed Asus' upcoming UX21 ultraslim laptop as an example.
Intel may look to price Ultrabook at around $800 or lower, McCarron said.
The first models will come later this year and have new chips based on the Sandy Bridge microprocessor. The second wave of Ultrabooks will be released early next year and have Ivy Bridge chips, which are faster and more power-efficient.
The first Ultrabooks later this year will not have touch capabilities, but will boot quickly and be always connected, to continuously receive e-mail and Facebook updates, said Kevin Sellers, vice president of investor relations at Intel, during a presentation earlier this week.
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