The 'Book Review

Ivy Bridge Laptops Coming Soon, Are Laptops Crap?, Do Tablets Doom Laptops?, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.04.20

We have conflicting reports from Cnet and DigiTimes regarding the release of Ivy Bridge Mobile CPUs, especially the dual-core ones expected in the next generation MacBook Air. Cnet says the new mobile chips will be delayed until June, while DigiTimes expects Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks to begin shipping in May. Either way, buyers are holding off purchases until Ivy Bridge models are available.

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Ivy Bridge News

News & Opinion

Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

Ivy Bridge News

Ivy Bridge Mobile CPUs Push New MacBook Air and Ultrabooks Back to June

Cnet's Brooke Crothers reports that MacBook and PC Ultrabook fans Jonesing for new hardware powered by Intel's latest-generation Ivy Bridge CPU silicon will have to wait for a second-wave chip release, based on comments by Intel CEO Paul Otellini during the company's first-quarter earnings conference call Wednesday.

While the first wave of Ivy Bridge chips are expected to launch on Monday, they will be quad-core units for desktop machines, with the dual-core variants for "mainstream notebooks" held back for a "second wave" release, likely in June.

Intel Expected to Bring Ivy Bridge Launch Forward

DigiTimes' Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai report that Intel, which had originally planned to announce its new Ivy Bridge processors on April 29, is expected to bring the announcement forward to April 23, apparently to accommodate Asustek computer, Acer, Lenovo, and Hewlett-Packard (HP), which, according to insider sources at the various notebook players, are all ready to release second-generation Ivy Bridge ultrabooks starting in May

Chen and Tsai also cite Intel's PC Client Group vice president and general manager Kirk Skaugen predicting at an Intel Developer Forum in Beijing that ultrabook prices in the next few months will drop rapidly to $699 from a more typical $999 currently as the economies of scale kick in with higher shipment volumes.

They also note that at the show, in addition to showcasing upcoming second-generation ultrabooks, Intel also revealed some innovative design concepts for ultrabooks and several concept devices for Windows 8 as well.

Notebook Makers Hurting as Consumers Wait Out Ivy Bridge Release

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai report that Taiwanese ODM subcontract producers of notebooks for vendors like Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Apple, notably Wistron, Compal, and Quanta, are looking at shipments falling 10-20% in April as consumers sit on their wallets and wait until systems powered by Intel's highly anticipated Ivy Bridge Core i CPUs become available.

Lee and Tsai note that while the first examples of Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processors are expected to launch this month, initially released models will mainly target the high-end PC market, with mass shipments of mainstream CPUs not expected to occur until the end of the second quarter.

Meanwhile, they report that longtime Apple subcontractor Quanta (which also produces notebooks for several major PC laptop vendor firms) shipped 4.9 million notebooks in March, but is expected to suffer an on-month shipment drop of 16% to only a volume of 4.1 million units in April.

However, order volumes are expected to start picking up in May, growing rapidly in June, and continue to climb in the third quarter, according to unnamed insider sources.

News & Opinion

Are Laptops Crap?

The Register's Alistair Dabbs tells us why he thinks laptop computers are crap. The talking points:

  1. The screen isn't big enough for real work
  2. There's no numeric keypad
  3. The ports are too close to each other
  4. Not enough storage space
  5. The display viewing angle is acute
  6. Trackpads are rubbish
  7. Battery life is pants

Followed by the kicker: Ignore the previous seven points.

Dabbs explains that these complaints about portable computers hark back to the days when they really were crap, acknowledging an unrelenting shift of manufacturer emphasis from "lard-arsed desktop behemoths to nimble mobile devices," and resigning himself to the reality that ultimately, we're all being moved to laptops whether we like them or not, but he no longer feels aggrieved, because he actually likes the new wave of notebooks - and especially Ultrabooks.

However, he summarizes that what he really wants is a laptop that weighs nothing, incorporates a cinematic display, provides a five-octave keyboard, and fits into his back pocket. Too much to ask?

Seagate: SSDs Can't Completely Replace Hard Drives

In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes' Eric Savitz, Seagate CEO Steve Luczo expresses his view that SSDs will never be able to replace spinning-platter hard drives, asserting that numbers of people willing to pay $1,000 for a PC with 128 GB of storage is limited, and that the future of laptop storage drives going forward is more likely to be hybrid drives than pure SSDs. Luczo also notes that SSD production capacity is relatively small, noting that currently global flash memory production is about 100 exabytes, while Seagate alone has a production capacity four times that in hard drives. He sees a bright future ahead for hard drive makers as annual data storage consumption soars into the zettabytes.

Luczo also comments on last year's catastrophic flooding in Thailand, consolidation of the hard drive industry to just a few players, and opportunities for Seagate in the Cloud.

Could Tablets Spell Doom for Laptops?

WallstreetCheatSheet's Patricia Lee reports that a Barclays survey found of 100 CIOs in the US and Europe found that 76 of them said they've already issued tablets to employees or are testing them at their companies - and a blow to the PC industry: 40% said tablets they purchased would replace laptops.

A whopping 93% of the CIOs responding expressed some level of interest in tablet computers, and Apple's iPad was the most popular tablet mentioned, with over 80% of CIOs saying they would support it, while Android-based tablets garnered just above 40% of interest, and there was also some interest in Microsoft tablets.

Tech Trends

Intel Predicts Retina Laptop and Desktop Displays for 2013

Liliputing.com notes that Apple offers ultrahigh resolution Retina displays on its iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and Android tablet makers are expected to step up their game soon, with Acer, Asus, and Lenovo bringing 10.1" tablets to market with 1920 x 1200 pixel displays.

Intel predicts Retina displays for 2013 laptops

Laptop screens are another story, with 1366 x 768 pixel displays having only just become more common than 1024 x 768 pixel screens. However, the report notes that Intel envisions a day when laptop displays will offer the same retina-style pixel densities as phone and tablets and that day could arrive as soon as next year.

Ultrabooks to Sell Better in 2012, but Pricing Is Still a Challenge

IDG News' Michael Kan reports that Ultrabooks are expected to sell better this year, due to a larger selection of models slated to arrive on the market. But pricing and competition from tablets will continue to temper consumer interest in ultrabooks, according to analysts.

Kan notes that on Wednesday Intel said consumers can expect ultrabook prices starting at $699 within several months during the back-to-school period, and the lower price along with improved ultrabook features are expected help drive more consumers to buy the devices. However, he also cites Canalys research firm analyst Pin-Chen Tang saying that even at $699, Ultrabooks will still be too costly for many mainstream consumers, and that Intel and its ultrabook vendor partners will need to bring the starting price down to US$300 or $400. Kan also notes that on Wednesday, Intel revealed that it's working with 10 global and Chinese vendors to build tablets running Windows 8.

Pressure on Ultrabook Costs to Boost Hybrid Drive Demand

The Register's Chris Mellor reports that hybrid disk drives are on their way to becoming a fixture in computing, according to financial analyst Aaron Rakers of Stifel Nicolaus, who says Ultrabook pricing is driving the trend, noting that to get Intel's MacBook Air knockoffs into the $650 to $750 range (from their current $999 price point) will require cheaper components.

However, by adding a smallish flash memory cache to traditional spinning platter drives, such as in Seagate's 2-platter Momentus XT, and you get near-flash read speed and hard drive capacity for a price much less than an all-flash drive.

Intel Pushing for 5mm Thin Hard Drives in Ultrabooks

VR-Zone's LG Nilsson says if you thought Western Digital's new 7mm slim, 500 GB Scorpio Blue laptop hard drive (see last week's 'Book Review) was an impressive achievement, it's only the start of what's to come. Nilsson notes that at the recent Beijing Intel Developer Forum, Intel was pushing for an even slimmer mobile hard drive standard: 5mm, which is 28% slimmer.

Nilsson notes that his colleagues at VR-Zone Chinese snapped a picture of what Intel is hoping for during a presentation, and observes that despite SSDs being popular in Ultrabooks, for many users 128 or 256 GB is simply not enough capacity slide about 5mm thin hard drive standardand it's not always convenient to carry an external hard drive, so the company is proposing a new hard drive standard with a SATA interface that will be less than a quarter of the size of today's SATA interface and moved from a fairly central position on the drive, onto one of the corners. However, he says that Intel isn't expecting the SATA-IO to be ready until Q4 of this year at best.

As for drawbacks of going ultra-slim, they will include further physical and mechanical limitations, and it will be impossible to put more than a single platter in a 5mm thin drive, but Nilsson says Intel is expecting that there will be 1 TB 5mm drives in 15mm thin Ultrabooks by 2015.

Toshiba Upgrades Mainstream Laptops with Enhanced Features, Increased Portability

Toshiba's Digital Products Division (DPD), a division of Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., has announced its new fully equipped, affordable and portable Satellite L800 and Satellite C800 Series laptops. These new laptops pair everyday computing with style and versatility and are available in a wide range of configurations, screen sizes and colors.

"Toshiba is committed to providing its customers with the latest technologies and improved design in each generation of products," says Carl Pinto, vice president of product development of Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., Digital Products Division. "Thinner and lighter than the previous generation, the C800 Series offers essential computing while the L800 Series delivers affordable performance."

Satellite L800 Series

Combining contemporary styling, functionality and mobility, Satellite L800 Series laptops are targeted to families, students and small business owners looking for a solid all-around system at a reasonable price. The new L-Series laptops are thinner than previous models, but still maintain structural integrity and screen size. Toshiba Satellite L800With select configurations featuring 3rd Generation Intel Core processors or the latest multicore Accelerated Processing Units from AMD, Satellite L800 Series laptops offer lively performance for multitasking, productivity and light gaming. The Satellite L800 Series features HD TruBrite displays and are available in three screen sizes: 14", 15.6", and 17.3".

Designed with Toshiba's Fusion II finish with a new cross line pattern in a variety of colors, including Mercury Silver, Tuxedo Black, Pearl White, Corsa Red and Cobalt Blue, Satellite L-Series laptops also include full-sized raised tile keyboards with 10-key number pads on 15.6" and 17.3" models to improve performance and style. In addition, the updated Satellite L800 series now include a multitouch control trackpad that is larger than previous generations and recessed to maximize usability and minimize incidental contact.

These laptops also come equipped with Toshiba smart technologies, including PC Health Monitor, eco Utility and USB Sleep & Charge, which enables users to charge other devices even when the laptop is powered down. Audio has been greatly enhanced in the latest L-Series laptops with the integration of SRS Premium Sound HD. Select configurations of the Satellite L800 Series feature a Blu-ray Disc player, HD webcam and HDMI port.

Satellite C800 Series

The Satellite C800 Series laptops deliver basic productivity for the value-minded, budget-conscious consumer. Donning a fingerprint-fighting Trax Texture finish in Satin Black or Fusion I finish in Mercury Silver, the laptops feature next-generation processors from Intel and AMD, up to 500 GB hard drives and a range of connectivity options including USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, a Media Card Reader and an HDMI port. These laptops also include a webcam with face recognition technology, a DVD drive for watching movies and a full-sized keyboard. Now available with a new 14" diagonal HD TruBrite widescreen display as well as a 15.6" and 17.3" diagonal display models, the Satellite C800 Series offers a unique design with essential features at an affordable price.

Pricing and Availability

The Toshiba Satellite L845 Series laptops start at $449.99 MSRP. The Toshiba Satellite L855 Series laptops start at $499.99 MSRP. The Toshiba Satellite L875 Series laptops start at $599.99 MSRP. The Toshiba Satellite C800 Series laptops start at $399.99 MSRP.

The Toshiba Satellite L800 and Satellite C800 Series laptops will be available for purchase at the beginning of Q3 2012 at major retailers, e-tailers and direct from Toshiba on ToshibaDirect.com.

Bargain 'Books

For deals on current and discontinued 'Books, see our 13" MacBook and MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, 17" MacBook Pro, 12" PowerBook G4, 15" PowerBook G4, 17" PowerBook G4, titanium PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerBook G3, and iBook G3 deals.

We also track iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle deals.

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