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Acer founder: 'Tablets, ultrabooks just a fad'

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Those tablets and razor-thin "ultrabooks" that are grabbing all the headlines these days are just passing fads, says the founder of PC-maker Acer.

According to a report by DigiTimes, Acer's Stan Shih – yes, he of the "Stan Shih Smile Curve" – says that PCs remain the foundation of the IT industry, and that the industry needs more innovations such as tablets to spring from that base.

Shih, it appears, may have missed Apple CEO Steve Jobs' memo that "We're living in a post-PC world."

DigiTimes gives no source for Shih's comments, but it does note that he complimented Apple for its "outside-the-box" thinking when creating the iPad, and said that all players in the notebook industry should learn from such Cupertinian daring.

There's one major player in the IT industry who's banking on its belief that ultrabooks are by no means a passing fad, but are instead the future: Intel.

Intel ultrabook

According to Stan Shih, Intel had better hurry with its ultrabook plans – they're just a passing fad

According to a separate DigiTimes report, Intel has released a reference bill of materials for its ultrabook vision, and has been talking with notebook manufacturers about keeping ultrabook prices below $1,000.

Intel has been heavily promoting its ultrabook idea since it unveiled the skinny little fellow at an investors confab in May of this year, saying that the always-on, always connected ultralight would "redefine the consumer PC experience" when it appeared in 2012.

According to unnamed sources, the bill of materials – parts only, not assembly – that Intel is shopping around Taiwan includes two different classes of ultrabooks. One will have displays of 11 to 13 inches, a thickness of 18mm (0.71 inch), and a bill of materials if $493 to $710. The second will have displays of 14 to 17 inches, a thickness of 21mm (0.83 inch), and a bill of materials of $475 to $650.

At those costs, the retail prices of many ultrabooks should be under that magic $1,000 mark – which is important, seeing as how there's strong industry sentiment that the whole ultrabook concept may be doomed if the little fellows are more expensive than Apple's breakaway MacBook Air, which in its 11.6-inch version retails for $999.

This need to keep ultrabook component costs down is what Intel CEO Paul Otellini was referring to in a recent financial-report conference call, when he unleased one of the finer bursts of corporatese we've heard in some time: "What we have to do is work with the ecosystem to cost-engineer these features for high-volume price-point displacement."

But even that high-volume price-point displacement might come to naught if notebook manufacturers can't find enough materials in the ecosystem to build ultrabooks, what with Apple's sucking the NAND market dry, monopolizing battery supplies, and eating up the manufacturing capacity of magnesium-aluminum unibody chassis.

Expect to hear a lot more about the ultrabook from the stage of this September's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) geekfest, held here in beautiful downtown San Francisco.

That is, if what Stan Shih calls the ultrabook fad hasn't already cooled by next month. ®

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