Forget about Chromebooks, here come the Ultrabooks. Ultra-what? Per Intel’s presser at the Computex show in Taipei, Taiwan, Ultrabooks represent an entirely new class of notebooks that include the best features of tablets. If this sounds suspiciously familiar, look no further than the upcoming Mac OS X Lion operating system that is being pitched by Apple as “taking our best thinking from iPad and bringing it all to the Mac” or the MacBook Air’s iPad-like instant-on promise. Intel is playing exactly the same iPad card, their senior vice president Tom Kilroy telling Reuters:

We’re shooting for ultra responsive. You’ll have always-on, always-connected, much more responsive devices, similar to what you would see with a tablet today such as an iPad.

This sounds a lot like a catch-up to the MacBook Air’s all-flash instantaneous performance, cynics would argue. Ultrabooks are about Intel’s latest chips and reference designs. Intel also took the wraps off of its new fanless netbook platform code-named “Cedar Trail” and proposed a “Medfield” tablet reference design for sub-9mm designs, weighing less than 1.5 pounds and supporting a choice of operating system, per press release. So when can we expect first Ultrabooks to challenge MacBook Air’s dominance?

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Intel says first Ultrabooks will be available in time for the holiday shopping season, priced in the sub-$1000 range and eventually settling at around $600 within a couple of years. Intel has high hopes for these machines, telling the news gathering organization that Ultrabooks should account for 40 percent of all consumer notebook sales by the end of 2012. Intel has been attempting to make a dent in mobile for years. The company’s latest moves in this space include the Oak Trail processor, their first designed specifically for tablets, and the new tri-gate transistor technology that crams more transistors onto chips, making them speedier yet at the same time power efficient.

Another part to this strategy is the Ivy Bridge platform. Billed as a Sandy Bridge successor, Ivy Bridge will improve graphics performance and power efficiency while enabling better responsiveness and stronger security. First Ivy Bridge chips fabbed on the new 22-nanometer tri-gate transistor technology are expected by April 2012. Intel will also launch “Haswell” processors in 2013, said to cut power requirements to half of today’s chips. Meanwhile, ViewSonic showed off a tablet yesterday engineered around the new Oak Trail chip. Acer is also expected to come out with an Android tablet with an Oak Trail chip inside and yesterday they showed off the ultra-thin UX2 notebook, depicted in the video below. A number of companies have been trying to replicate Apple’s engineering solutions with the MacBook Air, from Samsung’s Series 9 to Dell’s thin notebook.

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