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Intel CEO Otellini promises $699 ultrabooks by fall

140 svelte laptops in the pipeline, 40 'touch-enabled'

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Despite relatively slow initial sales of the thin and light laptops that his company is making such a huge bet on, Intel headman Paul Otellini remains bullish on ultrabooks, and is confident that $699 versions of the svelte "reinvented PCs" will hit store shelves this fall.

"Ultrabooks continue to build momentum, and achieved our volume goals for the first half," Otellini told analysts and reporters in a conference call after Intel posted its Q2 2012 financial results on Tuesday – in apparent disagreement with some who feel ultrabook sales have so far been lackluster.

Otellini claims that there's a passel of fine ultrabooks in the works. "We are very pleased with the level of innovation and invention brought into this category," he said, "and we are now tracking over 140 Ivy Bridge–based designs in the pipeline."

Of those 140, he said, over 40 will be touch-enabled, and a dozen or so will be convertibles – machines with flippable displays that can function either as a tablet or a traditional clamshell laptop ultrabook.

"With visibility into this many designs," he said, "we are very confident that we will see $699 systems at retail this fall."

Otellini also said that the 140 designs will use different storage strategies to hit different price points. "Some of them are aiming at a premium segment with higher prices, using SSDs," he said, "and some of them are using these ultra-low-profile, high-capacity drives that are now becoming available, which gives you the capacity and the thinness at the same time, which I think is a nice way to hit lower price points."

The Intel president and CEO also offered the opinion that his company shouldn't trim its pricing structure more aggressively to stimulate demand for ultrabooks during this period of weak consumer spending – quite the contrary, in fact.

"What we're seeing is that in a time of tight consumer budgets, people buy quality," he said, "and they tend to buy the high end of the line – or reasonably high end of our product lines. You want something to last a few years, and that tends to give them a bit more assurance."

Otellini referred to that $699 price as being the "sweet spot" that would ignite ultrabook demand by the end of this year, a time when he said he was confident that ultrabooks would comprise 40 per cent of the laptop market.

While your Reg reporter waits to see if Otellini's optimism is justified, he'll continue to hack out stories on his original ultrabook, Apple's MacBook Air, which was first introduced in January 2008. ®

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