Meeting the challenge from phones and tablets, new models will be affordable, writes Jennifer Dudley- Nicholson
Thin is definitely in
THE future of computing is thin, light and cheaper than you might expect.
This is the prediction from some of the industry’s biggest names who gathered in Shanghai this month to launch new laptop lines, including a new category of affordable, lightweight computers.
But while the fresh models offer advanced power, connectivity and slick looks, they will also face one of the toughest markets in years.
PC sales are falling worldwide, challenged by tablet computers and smartphones, and Australia is far from immune to the trend.
Some savvy consumers are also making the problem worse by delaying PC purchases as they await the arrival of a speedier Intel chip and Microsoft Windows 8 software.
The world’s biggest PC maker, HP, is seeking to kick the market into gear once more with lightweight laptops, unveiling Ultrabooks in China and a line of laptops dubbed Sleekbooks.
HP consumer notebook business unit vice- president Kevin Frost says the company is investing heavily in thin, portable laptops that comply with Intel’s Ultrabook definition, giving the ‘‘ broadest’’ range of the new computers.
To fall under the branding, Ultrabooks must be slimmer than 2.1cm, offer more than five hours of battery life, use Intel Sandy Bridge processors and wake in less than seven seconds.
But Frost says the market for slim and light computers reaches beyond the Ultrabook market, where prices often exceed $ 1000.
‘‘ We also believe there’s a different customer segment for a different computer and we’re calling this the Sleekbook,’’ he says.
The new Sleekbooks will feature slim profiles like Ultrabooks but will come with plastic rather than metal casing, hard drives rather than solidstate storage, and AMD and Intel Pentium processors rather than the latest and fastest Intel chips.
HP’S first Sleekbook models will also feature significant price savings over their Ultrabook brothers, with a 14- inch HP Envy Sleekbook arriving this month for about $ 700. By comparison, newly announced HP Ultrabook, the Envy Spectre XT, will cost about $ 1000 when it launches early next month.
The top- of- the- line computer will feature a body that is just 1.45cm thin and 1.3kg, as well as a 13.1- inch screen, 128GB
storage and a battery life of up to eight hours. Adobe photo and movie- editing software, two years of Norton antivirus protection and phone support will be included. Intel’s Aaron Arvizu says HP’S new slender computers, which add to Ultrabook launches from Lenovo and Samsung, are important as the industry faces a serious challenge from other computing sources.
PC sales are starting to slow. Worldwide PC shipments fell 1.4 per cent at the end of last year, according to Gartner, and rose just 1.9 per cent in the first quarter of this year, reflecting ‘‘ worse than normal PC shipment growth’’.
Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa says computer sales have started to fall off as consumers wait for ‘‘ two big releases: Intel’s Ivy Bridge and Microsoft’s Windows 8’’.
But sales are expected to leap as soon as they arrive.
SLICK: HP Envy Sleekbook.