Even as the iPad continues to slowly strangle the life out of the netbook market, HP is determined to rebrand that small, inexpensive laptop category while also breaking away from Intel’s MacBook Air-like ultrabook standard. Calling the new line of laptops “sleekbooks,” HP is repudiating Intel’s ultrabook requirements and cozying up with Intel’s longtime rival AMD.
The new sleekbook devices were announced along with new ultrabook models in HP’s Envy line. The new sleekbooks aim to strike a balance somewhere between Intel’s rigid ultrabook specs and the netbook ideal of minimal, low-cost notebooks.
Intel developed the ultrabook platform as a response to the success of Apple’s MacBook Air, a device so attractive that some businesses have bought them simply to use as Windows laptops courtesy of Apple’s Boot Camp.
PC manufacturers have complained about the stringent price and feature requirements that Intel insists on if thin and light laptops are to carry the ultrabook name. Meeting those requirements strains profit margins for many PC makers and Intel has even been accused of subsidizing laptops to ensure they meet the standard and can compete against the MacBook Air. As a result of Intel’s focus, ultrabooks have forced manufacturers into direct competition with Apple but without the lean product supply line and economies of scale that Tim Cook created as Apple’s Chief Operations Officer.
Although paying lip service to Intel’s ultrabook model, the new sleekbooks show HP is more than willing to attempt to revive the netbook – as part of its new lineup. HP is even willing to ditch Intel in some of its new products and go with rival AMD’s latest processor families.
The sleekbooks haven’t quite matched the bargain basement pricing of many netbooks, however, with the lineup starting at $599. That’s $150 lower than entry level ultrabooks, but it’s also dead center in the iPad’s range of price points. In fact, it’s on par with with the cost of a 16GB new iPad and keyboard case.
Regardless of whether the new sleekbooks are a success for HP, they definitely highlight cracks in Intel’s ultrabook strategy of developing a range of MacBook Air competitors.