As someone that placed an order for a MacBook Air within 24 hours of its announcement, I obviously have some bias when I say that Stan Shih, founder of Acer, is misguided in saying tablets and “ultrabooks”, laptops under 0.8 inches thick with longer battery lives, are just “short-term phenomena”. Ceteris paribus, most people would probably choose a thinner, lighter laptop with longer battery life over a bulkier one with a shorter battery life. One of the selling points of laptops is their portability; ultrabooks are a natural evolution towards increasing portability.
Attempts to compete on price alone, as Mr. Shih suggests companies should do, can only take you so far. Computers have already become commodities. That netbooks come in an assortment of colours is a testament to this commoditization. The material cost of housing bulkier components will itself either drive laptops to become smaller to compete on price or will result in a loss of cost as a differentiator between netbooks and ultrabooks, to the detriment of the netbook market. Netbooks could conceivably “win” the race to the bottom, but to do so will have gained at least one attribute of ultrabooks: small size. At the same time, this new breed of netbooks would also begin to compete more directly against portable devices like cellular phones; thus, they will probably continue to offer more expandability (e.g., USB ports) and computing power than contemporaneous cellular phones. What does that entail? Netbooks of the future become more like ultrabooks of the present (and of the future).
For the last eight years, I’ve been privileged to have a laptop with sufficient oomph (that’s a technical term) that could serve all my computing needs; other than my power cable, I rarely hook anything up to my laptop, except to sync or charge a device. I “cheat” and have a desktop computer to record television shows and store photos, but, again, that’s not for my every-day computing. If someone had a Mac laptop “more ultra” than mine and offered to swap, would I trade? In a lub. That is to say, faster than Doug Ford could close a library.