超级本到底是什么东西？英特尔将其定义为薄、轻、小功率笔记本电脑——即价格稍低的MacBook Air。上周，在其于加利福尼亚州圣克拉拉市举行的年度投资者会议上，英特尔展示了目前正在生产的20款超级本中数款，并表示另外还有110款正处于设计阶段。其中有些是所谓的“混合型”设计，包括可折叠成为平板电脑或带有可分离式键盘的超薄笔记本电脑。英特尔还展示了一个带有透明触摸板的奇怪设计理念，被称为Nikiski。未来的超级本将结合触摸、手势和语音控制，而且电池续航时间将达到一整天。此外，预计其价格也将下降，到今年年底将跌至699美元（苹果公司的MacBook Air起价为999美元）。为了确保这些新设备的销量，英特尔已经启动了自其迅驰无线系列2003年推出以来规模最大的营销活动。
虽然不可否认平板电脑和智能手机的兴起抑制了市场对PC的需求，但销售传统计算机芯片仍然非常有利可图。英特尔希望超级本能重新激发消费者对PC机的热情。英特尔的竞争对手，包括那些此前一直致力于移动设备开发的厂商，如今都试图将产品打入新型的便携PC市场。本周早些时候，惠普推出了另一系列的超薄笔记本——Sleekbook。它们可以看作是没有英特尔芯片的超级本：使用的都是AMD芯片。而芯片厂商安谋国际科技公司（ARM Holdings）也对PC业务发起了突袭，高通（Qualcomm）、德州仪器（Texas Instruments）等公司均在使用ARM授权技术制造芯片。据称，即将面世的部分Windows 8平板电脑也将搭载ARM芯片。超级本也不甘示弱，搭载微软Windows 8的产品预计也会在今年年底上市。
Call it an Ultrabook. Call it a Sleekbook. It's still pretty much a wannabe MacBook Air. But for technology behemoths that count on computers like Intel and Hewlett-Packard, the new crop of thinner laptops are the latest attempt to electroshock demand.
Take Intel (INTC). The Santa Clara-based company is the largest supplier of PC chips and, obviously, it'd like to keep it that way. That's why the company is putting all of its marketing might behind Ultrabooks, the latest category of portable computers.
What the heck is an Ultrabook? Intel defines it as a thin, lightweight and low-power laptop -- a.k.a, a slightly cheaper MacBook Air. At its annual investor meeting in Santa Clara, Calif. last week, the chipmaker showed off several of the 20 Ultrabooks currently in production and said there are 110 additional designs in the works. Some of these are so-called "hybrid" designs, including thin laptops that fold to become a tablet or have a detachable keyboard. Intel also showed an oddly designed concept with a transparent touchpad, called Nikiski. Future Ultrabooks will integrate touch, gesture and voice controls, and will have all-day battery life. They're also expected to come down in price, to $699 by end of this year. (Apple's (AAPL) MacBook Air starts at $999.) To make sure these new devices sell, Intel has embarked on its biggest marketing campaign since its Centrino wireless line came out in 2003.
While there's no denying the effect that the rise of tablets and smartphones have had on demand for PCs, there's still plenty of money to be made from selling computer chips. Intel is hoping Ultrabooks will help get consumers excited about PCs again. Rival chipmakers, including those that have traditionally focused on mobile devices, are also trying to push their products into new, lightweight PCs. Earlier this week Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) unveiled yet another franchise of ultra-thin laptops, called Sleekbooks. These are basically Ultrabooks lacking Intel inside; they run on chips made by AMD (AMD). And ARM Holdings, which licenses chip technology to Qualcomm (QCOM), Texas Instruments (TXN) and others is now making a foray into the PC business as well. Its chips are expected to power some of the upcoming Windows 8 tablets. Ultrabooks running on Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows 8 are also expected out later this year.
Of course, no other chipmaker has quite as much riding on the PC market as Intel. And no rival can match the company's advanced processing technology. Or, for that matter, marketing power. The chipmaker has spent millions of dollars making sure consumers recognize and value its "Intel Inside" logo. Intel also has its history to convince itself it will be successful. Its Centrino campaign had an important hand into dragging PC-makers and consumers alike into the wireless internet era.
What about the new competition? Intel dismisses the threat from ARM. CEO Paul Otellini told investors the company is on track to meet its goal -- that Ultrabooks will comprise 40% of consumer notebook sales by this holiday season. Intel would like to sell a lot of phones and tablets this year as well, but so far that hasn't happened. Despite its advanced technology and brand recognition, the company still hasn't been able to crack the mobile market.