Convergence and the Changing PC Landscape

It's too cliché to proclaim netbooks are dead. Perhaps the appropriate phrase is netbooks are no longer interesting to write about, but they do have a roadmap going forward. For years we heard about convergence in the PC and consumer electronics space. Our TVs, set top boxes and video players were all supposed to get more intelligent. Last year we saw the first real fruits of those efforts with the introduction of Google TV and devices like the Boxee Box. Convergence has finally reached mainstream, but the process isn't over yet.

The smartphone revolution is the beginning of a much larger convergence. A melding of computing devices, convergence between the smartphone and tablet, or the tablet and notebook PC. As is typically the case of any convergence process, this one doesn't have a clear end nor does it have a clear roadmap. Along the way there will be many attempts and likely more failures than successes until we meet the handful of devices and strategies that really make sense.

The smartphone will become even more PC-like and the tablet will become even more notebook-like. But where does that leave PCs? They too must evolve and play their role in this process of convergence, after all it will be PC technologies that ultimately drive the convergence (from the example earlier, is it any surprise that both Google TV and Boxee Box feature very PC-like processors running Linux based OSes?).

How does the PC evolve? Part of it is a change in software. Traditional desktop OSes won't go away, but they must incorporate the advantages and innovations brought by the players in the smartphone/tablet markets. Apple is at the forefront of much of this revolution and the next version of Mac OS X already starts to look more like iOS with its app store, app launcher and iOS-like full screen modes. Microsoft is rumored to be preparing a very tablet friendly UI that will layer upon Windows 8, which itself will span everything from tablets (and smartphones?) to desktops.

As we've learned in the past, software enables hardware and hardware enables software. The PC's changing role in the future also requires some new thought about hardware design and what sort of decisions microprocessor manufacturers are going to make going forward. We've already seen hints of this from both AMD and Intel. The two companies no longer make discrete CPUs but rather complete SoCs, similar to what you'd find in a smartphone just on a much larger scale. Like I said before, the PC will adopt the learnings of the smartphone and tablet industries as it evolves.

Today Intel is announcing the first step in that evolution, an announcement that we actually first heard about from another company a year ago.

When Apple introduced the 2010 MacBook Air, Steve Jobs called it a preview of the future of the MacBook lineup. The subsequent MacBook Pro release looked pretty traditional so the messaging may have been a bit premature. I believe what Jobs was referring to was the move toward thinner, lighter and SSD based notebooks across the board. Intel's announcement today puts that future on a roadmap, and the device is called the Ultrabook.

Meet the Ultrabook
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  • OS - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    heh i am hardly a mac fanboy, but i take this as intel basically saying half the future laptops should look like a macbook air
  • Penti - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Well ultra portables are nothing new, but they are consumer friendly with pricing now. I.e. a laptop with a ULV processor doesn't cost over 2000 dollars any more. Which on the low end Apple was late getting on. CULV and consumer ultra-portables was already there by then. It's Intel that is responsible for all that as they provided the hardware platform for it to happen. A ULV-processor could before just a few years ago almost cost more then a CULV-laptop. Now they can be had for 100 USD. Performing not that badly. Falls in line with their "consumerising" of PCs.
  • kevith - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Is this a way to solve the input-problem with tablets?

    You could have one of these new ultrathin ultrabooks, and - like some clam-type phones - have a screen on the outside for pad-use, where you could use swype or normal touch.screen input.

    And then you could open it and have a normal keyboard and screen on the inside for more demanding work.
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    When Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air last year he said that it's design was a prelude to future MacBooks. Now Intel says the future of the PC is ultra-thin notebooks. Hmmm...
  • sstteevveenn - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    roadmap [s]going forward[/s]
  • mino - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Anyone else wondering when are the new "Hyperbooks" due?

  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    "Atom will service a new expanded range from ~800mW to 8W"

    The Cortex A9 cores (each) draw 250mW at load. Still a ways to go for Intel, but if a single one of those 800mW cores can beat both Cortex A9 cores in performance that's competitive.
  • name99 - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    "The first requirement of an Ultrabook is that it's ultra-thin. In Intel's eyes this means less than 0.8" (20.32mm) which is thinner than anything Apple offers in the MacBook Pro line (0.95")."

    So I guess that Intel (unlike a million screaming Apple haters) can see the writing on the wall. Optical storage is pointless for an ever larger group of users.

    Let's see how long it takes for the story to switch from "but but but, how do you deal with not having a boot DVD" to "of course, Apple stole the idea of selling bootable USB sticks from MS/Linux/Nintendo/Atari".
  • frozentundra123456 - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    I agree with Kevith. Seems to me like the ideal solution would be a combination of some tablet type screen that would then open up to allow you to use a keyboard.

    I would pay 1000.00 for something like this that you could use as a tablet and laptop combination. otherwise, I could not consider paying this much for a thin and light notebook. As someone else noted, i would prefer to buy a 500.00 tablet and a separate 500.00-700.00 laptop.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    Intel is obviously on a big money grab hoping their huge margins are going to carry them to the stars. Obviously they are delusional. All the idiot-trendy yuppie types who would actually pay the intel premium for a device like this are already buying Apple. lol. The non-ultrabook products will be significantly cheaper, thus they are what will sell, aside from the small % mindless yuppies who are already buying apple.

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