Will UltraBooks Make PCs Interesting Again?

Ben Bajarin / June 6th, 2011

I ask this question specifically because this is the question those who make PC’s are asking. In particular this initiative to make the PC relevant again is being driven by Intel and in part by AMD. This sounds rather silly because of course the PC is still relevant, the fact of the matter is the PC has become boring.

PC’s are mainstream and there isn’t much interesting about them these days. Consumers are familiar with them and understand what they are and what they are good for. Consumers are more interested in learning about things like smart phones and tablets to which they are still in discovery mode with.

So will UltraBooks make PC’s interesting again? I doubt it, because an UltraBook, by the definition currently, is simply a very thin and very light laptop. The only thing that can help PC’s at this point is not go beyond making them thinner and lighter and do something to blow consumers expectations out of the water..

Consumer’s expect them to look like clamshell devices with a screen and built in mouse. Make PC’s that capture consumers attention and cause them to re-think what the PC is and what it means to them. This is one reason I am so interested in the Asus Transformer.

The Asus Transformer is a very interesting concept of a tablet-PC hybrid. These hybrids had been tried in the past, however they were focused more on being a PC rather than a tablet. This is one of the primary reason’s the early convertible PC’s failed. Simply adding a touch screen to an existing PC experience did not add value by itself. This is why with the TouchSmart series of desktops, HP created its own software that was “touch” friendly to sit on top of Windows.

The transformer, as well as future hybrid’s, will be more tablets than PC’s. This will be an interesting challenge because it will force PC makers to think through how to make a great tablet first then add traditional PC functionality later. This could be everything from new productivity software, accessories, new input mechanisms and hopefully even services.

Another PC that I find interesting, that challenges the conventional PC wisdom, is the Asus Iconia Notebook. This notebook has dual 14″ touch screen’s. What makes this the most interesting is the bottom touch screen which can turn into a virtual keyboard, media console, art pad and more.

Replacing the physical, static keyboard, with a touch screen that is dynmaic and can change based on the software, is a fresh approach to PC’s. I’m excited to see where that kind of thinking ends up.

The bottom line is consumers still love their PC’s. They need them and value them, this is why they are relevant. They just aren’t that exciting. That is where I think the real work needs to be focused. The innovations I mentioned with the Transformer and the Iconia are just starting points, but they are good ones.

Tablets have challenged consumers to re-think the role of the PC. The PC itself needs to evolve and challenge consumers expectations of the PC itself.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
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