Reports: Asus planning half a dozen Ultrabooks

Asus UX21 / Intel Ultrabook

Intel wants to shake up the personal computer market with new, super-thin and powerful notebooks called Ultrabooks, which the company hopes will account for 40 percent of new PC sales by the end of 2012. Although the company has had trouble convincing computer maker to get on board—even waving some $300 million in front of OEMs to convince them to follow the Ultrabook path—at least one computer maker is jumping on the platform: both The Financial Times and DigiTimes report Asus is getting ready to launch not just its UX21 Ultrabook—which it demonstrated when Intel announced the platform—but from five to seven additional models as well, with possible prices ranging from $799 to $1,999.

The Asus EX21 Ultrabook should debut shortly, and aims at an ultraportable form factor, sporting an 11.6-inch display; other models will reportedly step up to a 13.3-inch screen size.

Intel’s $300 million Ultrabook fund was created in part to help defray manufacturer’s costs as they attempt to bring out sub-$1,000 Ultrabooks—that seems to be the sweet price point consumers are willing to consider in a world increasingly populated by tablets and smartphones. Intel’s Ultrabook platform will eliminate much of the bulk and weight of traditional notebook computer designs, along with “tablet-like” features while offering significantly more horsepower and performance than a typical tablet. However, some computer makers were asking Intel to cut CPU prices by as much as 50 percent to make Ultrabooks a viable category in the PC market; although Intel did create the $300 million Ultrabook fund, it did not cut CPU prices.

Traditionally, low-price PCs are also low-margin PCs: HP may be the largest computer maker on the planet, but it is far from the most profitable, in part due to so many of its sales being on lower-end systems. (And profitability is why HP is looking to sell off its PC business.) By aiming some Ultrabooks as high as $1,999, Asus may be testing the waters for mid-range and high-end Ultrabooks—a niche where customers are already looking for performance, and where profit margins are considerably healthier.