So this being the case why do all the Ultrabooks except the ones from Asus and possibly Samsung look like absolute crap? In other words if you are competing with Apple - do it properly and design something which looks as good as it can look.
Dell recently had strong sales of its XPS 13 Ultrabook (pictured) and to be fair, it too is certainly one of the better looking devices on the market. Perhaps the company's success will light a fire under the rears of HP's designers. And Best Buy for that matter - do they realize this is a new and emerging category? Remember what I said about the retailer this past December? Here is a reminder:
In May of 2009 I praised Dell for launching a high-end stylish line of computers called Adamo. At the time I said:
I was in a local Best Buy last week and this past weekend and I spent some time with the salesman in the Apple portion of the store. I queried him as to how many people are asking him about Ultrabooks and he said there is no comparison as they get viruses and have no SSDs. His lack of knowledge about the new models from companies like Lenovo, Toshiba and Asus which do indeed have SSDs surprised me. After all Best Buy had the Asus and Toshiba on display no more than fifteen feet away. You figure any salesperson would know what the competition was doing. And you guessed it – the salesperson worked for Apple, not Best Buy.
The Ultrabook category while superhot to the people in the know is not known much outside the bleeding-edge - yet. Many techies I know in fact have never heard of them. Moreover, Best Buy markets Ultrabooks like they were dog droppings. The salespeople don’t know much about them. There is no sign pointing to them as special – or at all different from laptops and notebooks. Most consumers in the store in fact avoided them as they sat in relative obscurity.
It is really inexcusable for Best Buy to have such poor marketing for a killer category of product with potentially higher margins than many other products in the store. Moreover, these devices are perhaps the biggest reason to visit the store – besides perhaps checking out the latest flat screen TVs.
So my advice to Dell would of course be to move up market. Go after Apple head-to-head. Give those people who want an ultra-thin Mac laptop a way to get the sleekness of a Mac with the ability to run Vista.
In the same entry I disagreed with Chris Dawson at ZDnet who said the economy is not ready for a laptop which is so expensive. Well Adamo didn't make it so Chris either was right on, partially right or there was a marketing/execution problem from Dell which caused the company to withdraw this product at a later date.
Funny thing - I am not sure the economy is really that much better nowadays but at least the cost of Ultrabooks seems to be generally under $1,000 which is far more palatable.
So hats off to Intel for starting the marketing blitz for Ultrabooks - now the war with Apple is on. Let's see if the momentum at Dell continues and whether other computer makers will be able to see similar amounts of growth. And let's hope these computers start to look even better so future Intel ads can actually brag about how good they look and sleek they are.