first_imgAh, the Ultrabook. Sure, they’re really just skinny Windows laptops designed to compete against the MacBook Air, but Intel’s sure they’re the next big thing. Provided, of course, manufacturers can get them built at the right price.The “right price” used to be anywhere under $1,000. Intel has now revised that figure to a much more miserly $699.Intel is hoping that Ultrabooks can capture around 40% of the laptop market by the end of 2012, but that it’s going to be tough if prices don’t come down. The chip giant’s own Navin Shenoy said that the company wants to make that drop happen, but that it’s going to require help from “the ecosystem” to succeed.Shenoy said that “even if [Intel is] giving the chips away for free” the $699 mark can’t be reached without involving OEMs and manufacturers. An Intel price cut would certainly be a good catalyst. Acer president Scott Lin and Compal’s Ray Chen petitioned the chip maker for Ultrabook chip subsidies earlier this year, noting that the Intel guts account for as much as 33% of an Ultrabook’s price.Intel, however, wanted to maintain its estimated 60% gross profit margin. They did create a $300 million fund to help foster Ultrabook-related innovations in hardware and software and to help market the machines, but straight-up subsidies or price reductions weren’t part of the plan.Manufacturers have already started looking elsewhere for ways to reduced Ultrabook costs. Acer and Asus are planning to replace expensive, difficult-to-source aluminum shells with less costly fiberglass housings, for example.Shenoy also mentioned in his comments that Ultrabook prices wouldn’t rise due to the flooding in Thailand. The reason? Because Ultrabooks don’t use hard drives, they use SSDs.There are two obvious problems with that statement. First, the Acer Aspire 3951 is currently the least expensive Ultrabook on the planet at $899. It’s the closest to Intel’s $699 target today… and the base model ships with a 320GB HDD. Second, SSDs aren’t immune to supply shortage issues. Apple has caused one or two runs on flash components before, and rumor has it that they’re getting ready to pump out the iPad 3 early next year. That flood of iPads could put a strain on SSDs — and subsequently drive up Ultrabook prices.That said, gadget prices always slide as they mature. By the end of next year, someone will have figured out how to get an Ultrabook on the market for $200 less than the Aspire 3951. Intel might have to make some pricing concessions after all, what with those AMD Ultrabook chips on the way.More at Reuterslast_img

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