An offer you can't refuse
Intel has never been shy about using MDF (market development funds) to help its partners sell products containing Intel chips, but when it's trying to promote a new computing paradigm it sometimes calls in the VCs at Intel Capital to spread the wealth further.
That's what Intel did to promote the Centrino notebook platform, to great effect, but there have been other initiatives (remember Viiv?), that have been far less impressive on the ROI front.
The paradigm du jour for Intel is the Ultrabook, which was formally launched at Computex. Essentially this is ‘thin-and-light' taken to the next level, and looks like an attempt to emulate what Apple has done with the MacBook Air, which uses Intel chips. Given Apple's attitude to the tablet market, Ultrabook OEMs might want to ensure their products don't end up looking too much like the MacBook Air, however.
Intel's efforts to get into the mobile market have yielded little to date, so the Ultrabook looks like an attempt to edge one increment closer to the mobile dream. In addition, the success of the MacBook Air indicates that's the direction the notebook market is headed, and Intel's only CPU competitor - AMD - also has the thin-and-light notebook market are the core focus for its Fusion chips.
All in all, therefore, Intel reckons it's worth investing a few bucks to try to ensure the Ultrabook concept takes off. There will be MDF, of course, but a new $300 million Intel Capital Ultrabook fund is will invest in companies that develop technology which contributes to the overall aim of creating ultraportable, all-day battery-life PCs, with a nod to tablets and touch UIs.
"Ultrabook devices are poised to be an important area for innovation in the $261 billion global computer industry," said Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital. "The Intel Capital Ultrabook fund will focus on investing in companies building technologies that will help revolutionize the computing experience and morph today's mobile computers into the next ‘must have' device."
The first wave of Sandy Bridge-based Ultrabooks, such as the ASUS UX21, is expected to be available to buy this Christmas. The second generation will be based around the 22nm Ivy Bridge chips, which are due to become available in the first half of 2012, than in 2013 we have ‘Haswell chips, which Intel claims will require half the power of today's chips.