Ultrabooks breathe new life into PC notebook market

 In End-User Devices, Hardware

PCs used to be big hulking towers that barely fit under your desk and sounded like a Saturn 5 rocket when you booted them up. Today, thanks to the relentless march of innovation-and some well-timed funding-the PC comes in a variety of flavors: netbooks, notebooks, pocket PCs, and Ultrabooks.

The Ultrabook™ form factor is changing the rules, and proving once and for all that the PC isn’t dead. Intel started testing the idea and specifications behind the Ultrabook in 2011, after Apple’s manila-envelope-inspired MacBook Air was met with roaring success in 2008. The Air wasn’t a full-breed Ultrabook, per se, but it did shape consumers’ expectations of what an ultra-compact, powerful notebook could look like.

After the Air came products like the iPad and other tablet devices, and the cry went out that the PC was dead and the tablet market was here to takeover. But even though consumers loved tablets, the devices just weren’t ready for most corporate environments.

Business leaders found that tablets were sorely lacking in terms of processing power and added an additional dimension to their infrastructure security. The security component alone was more than enough reason for IT professionals to be just a tad too wary to take their entire workforce over to a pure tablet environment.

That’s where Ultrabooks are finding their stride-combining a high-performance system with a small form factor design, capable of giving end users the power of a high-end, traditional notebook with the mobile, lightweight, and consumer-level features they admire most in their personal computing devices.

A tablet can be useful on the road to respond to a quick email, but even many avid users would agree that it’s just not powerful enough for day-to-day business use. The market is now starting to see a large influx of hybrid Ultrabooks; a notebook PC with a swiveling screen that turns the unit into a tablet with touch functionality running Windows 8. These devices give the user the touchscreen experience that has been popularized by the modern-day tablet, but with high-end computing power.

Top of the line models from the various PC manufacturers generally show an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB solid-state hard drive. This provides for a high-speed, thin, and mobile device with larger internal storage than what is currently offered by the tablet market. Additionally, customers running a traditional Windows environment will find that they can secure their data in the fashion they’ve grown accustomed to without having to move to an additional operating system, such as iOS or Android.

But the Ultrabook isn’t perfect. With so much power being crammed into a small package, it’s only natural that some capabilities needed to be cut. First up on the chopping block: the CD-ROM drive. With the advent of cloud storage and the availability of downloadable online content, we find that many customers simply no longer use traditional disks.

Next up: display ports. Since external monitors are often seen as an added bonus, PC manufacturers have begun combining display interfaces into a universal format to save space. One of the more popular formats is DisplayPort, which is aimed at combining VGA, DVI, and LVDS into one digital signal. This requires users to buy separate dongles for each display interface they need, which can get quite expensive if you’re dealing with a large workforce.

Lastly: USB and Ethernet ports. To decrease the overall unit size and maintain a thin, mobile unit, Ultrabook manufacturers are cutting back on the number of USB ports available to two or three. Ethernet ports are also a thing of the past, bowing to the Wi-Fi era of cordless connectivity to the Internet.

As a consumer, it’s important to recognize what features you do need. While the allure of the Ultrabook line can be strong, it may not always be the best fit for your business. Are you looking for multiple monitor support? Do you do a lot of presentations where an external display is needed? This is just one area where having a trusted IT advisor such as SHI can be a real bonus.

With the ongoing adoption of tablet computing, the future of the notebook PC can appear quite grim. However, products like the Ultrabook prove to us that the PC has a lot more tricks up its sleeve and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. With its high-powered processing capabilities and sleek, space-saving design, the Ultrabook has solidified the PC’s kingly status among business professionals.

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