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Intel Had To Show It Was Serious...

Ultrabook: Behind How Intel is Remaking Mobile Computing

DeLine describes the first 12 months of the Ultrabook initiative as “the duck paddling underwater.” No one could see Intel behind the scenes working on ecosystem investments, consulting with OEMs, and addressing concerns and skepticism—lots and lots of skepticism. The typical OEM design cycle from concept to market is over 12 months. So from the summer of 2011, the earliest Intel could show anything substantial would be the summer of 2012, concurrent with the launch of its third-generation Core architecture, Ivy Bridge. For a whole year, Intel had to deal with the fallout from CULV and netbooks while the world drooled over the iPad and started its love affair with Android in earnest, all while Intel still couldn’t score a meaningful design win in the tablet and phone spaces to save its life.

Source: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.Source: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Compounding the problem, OEMs still remembered back in 2008 when Intel was on the point of launching Rich Creek 2, a standards-minded attempt at bringing a form factor (a la ATX) to notebooks. The reference designs were done. The chassis were in place. Support networks were forming. Everything was set to go—and then the recession hit. Intel followed its usual fallback playbook: burn everything that isn’t central to CPUs and save money. Rich Creek 2 stuck its nose over the starting line and promptly had its head chopped off.

So here was Intel three years later telling everyone, “It’s OK. This time we’re serious. Trust us. Just invest in this ‘drive to thin’ and the market will appear.” I asked Rob DeLine how Intel could convince its partners that Ultrabook was the next Centrino, not the next Rich Creek 2. He laughed and asked if I was married.

“I know that look from my wife when she’s serious.”

What does “that look” look like? About $300 million. It took $150 million for Intel to drive awareness and demand for Centrino. Now the company was going to double down and put its money where its mouth was. That never happened with Rich Creek 2. In fact, the $300 million fund announced in August 2011 was only half of the picture. That money “aims to invest in companies building hardware and software technologies focused on enhancing how people interact with Ultrabooks, achieving all-day usage through longer battery life, enabling innovative physical designs and improved storage capacity.” In other words, it’s ecosystem money.

According to DeLine, “We’re going to invest a similar amount of money on marketing efforts. Our lead marketing effort for 2013 is Ultrabook. All we’re going to talk about everywhere is Ultrabook. When you do that, when you get that message delivered by Paul [Otellini, former CEO] to his counterpart and Dadi [Perlmutter, executive VP] to his counterpart and so on, then people look you in the eye and know you’re serious.”

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