Chile could be first in Latin America to see ultrabooks reach 40% of laptop sales

- Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chile could be first in Latin America to see ultrabooks reach 40% of laptop sales

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) is confident that Chile will be the first market in Latin America to see its new ultraportable laptops, dubbed ultrabook, reach and surpass 40% of the consumer laptop market, the company's business development manager, Eduardo Godoy, told BNamericas.

The ultrabook is a category of thin and lightweight, ultraportable laptops defined by a specification from Intel. Through a marketing initiative financed by a US$300mn fund, Intel hopes to stimulate the market for Intel-based laptops similar to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) MacBook Air, against rising competition from ARM processor-based tablet computers.

Intel claims that ultrabooks will have five hours of battery life and an ultra-fast start up. It has estimated that by the end of 2012, 40% of the consumer laptop market segment will be ultrabooks.

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"I think we're going to be the first in the region to reach that goal. We were the first in the region to sell more notebooks than desktops a few years ago. I'm sure we'll be the first in the region to reach Intel's goal and even surpass it," Godoy said.

Godoy said that sales will accelerate once a new line of ultrabooks designed for companies with added security features are introduced to the market next year.

The first ultrabooks will be launched this month in Chile with brands from Samsung, Lenovo and Acer. Next year Toshiba and Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) will be introducing ultrabooks.

WHY HAVE ACER WHEN YOU CAN HAVE APPLE?

But at a press conference in Santiago, reporters were generally skeptical of the new line of notebooks, and Intel executives had to field a barrage of questions on the relative technical and stylistic merits of the ultrabooks versus the iconic Apple machines.

Godoy pointed out that Apple is also an important customer for Intel and said that the idea is not to create a direct competitor to the MacBook but rather to open up the benefits of those lightweight notebooks to a different type of user.

"The first thing to clarify is that this isn't designed to compete with Mac. But there is a segment of the population that seeks a category of notebooks that are thin and long lasting. For sure they were inspired by the Mac Air," Godoy told BNamericas.

The executive said that while the Apple Mac ecosystem is closed, the makers of the ultrabook will have to meet certain standards that will run across all of the computers, irrespective of the manufacturer. This will provide a lot more options for a corporation that is perhaps interested in the MacBook Air design but whose software is not compatible with Mac.

Price was another issue that was raised by reporters, given that the ultrabooks will start selling from US$1,000 in the US, and will most likely be several hundred dollars more expensive in Latin America, depending on the market.

That puts the ultrabooks on a similar price threshold to MacBook Air, and many feel it will be hard to compete with such a strong brand as Apple.

Rocío Posadas, Intel's consumer manager for the Southern Cone, told BNamericas that it is likely prices will progressively come down next year.