Four reasons ultrabooks are right for business | ARN. (No longer available online. Original text included below.)
Ultrabooks, the thin lightweight laptops, are the computers of the future. Anyone that has used one will tell you it’s hard to go back to a heavy, boxy, full-sized laptop. It would be different if the svelte new models lacked battery life or horse-power, but most compete well with any laptop out there. So are they ready for use in business?
While Apple has so far dominated this category with it’s 11” and 13” Macbook Airs, a large percentage of businesses, especially larger businesses, wouldn’t consider them for a few important reasons: Apple is a sole supplier, Macs won’t run many business software packages out of the box, and they won’t integrate with many business systems. Fortunately, besides being able to run Windows on a Mac using Parallels, VMWare or Boot Camp, there are now a number of Ultrabooks from PC companies like Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and Toshiba. So yes, Mac or PC, there are hardware options for everyone.
Ultrabook’s biggest selling point is portability. Being small in size and lightweight makes them easy to carry around. Where you might not want to lug a full-size laptop into a vendor or client’s office, the slim Ultrabook, no larger than a paper notepad, allows you to easily have all of your needed data at your fingertips. The small size also makes it easier to use in small places, like the front seat of your car while in the parking lot of your next sale, or the tray table of a plane on the way to a conference.
The previous attempt at a small, lightweight laptop were Netbooks. Built to run web-apps, netbooks had screens as small as 9” and mini-keyboards to match. Though many had reasonable battery-life, most didn’t have enough processing power to run the types of programs used daily in most businesses.
With Ultrabooks, performance isn’t a major concern. Intel provides processors like the Core i7 capable of serious work, and combined with fast SSD drives, the performance of these tiny computers can rival that of much larger systems.
Though a laptop based on a 9” screen is portable, it’s also a bit of a pain to work on, having a less than full-size keyboard, and a low resolution screen. Manufacturers have learned from this, and it seems the 11” and especially 13” sizes are most preferred as they offer a good balance of usability vs portability.
Cost is always important to business, and could be the sticking point for some. Though it uses a fraction of the materials in a full-size laptop or desktop computer, building something small generally costs more. With Ultrabooks, the prices have been high, with some of the most capable machines up to $3000. Prices are coming down though: Toshiba’s Portege Z830 will be available in November for less than $1000, and Intel is strongly pushing all Ultrabook makers to keep costs below $1000.
With increased volume will inevitably come lower costs. Unfortunately, though many Ultrabook makers are releasing new models, most are only dipping their toes into the market, afraid to compete head on with Apple’s popular products. Until they gain more confidence and see a non-Apple manufacturer succeeding, availability will be limited, and prices will be higher than they should be.
The performance is there: a well-configured Ultrabook can do all but the most demanding of tasks. The selection is improving: Apple’s offerings are excellent, and a number of PC models are already on the market with many more appearing in the next two months. The costs could be better: you can get far better value with a larger laptop, but as volumes and competition increase, prices will come down.
So should you buy? For those whose jobs require lots of travel, and have a few extra dollars to spend, run, don’t walk to pick your favorite Ultrabook flavor, but as an occasional take-it-home desktop replacement you’re better off waiting.