Plastic to save Intel's Ultrabook bacon

In its desperate attempt to price the Ultrabook form factor at $999 or lower, Intel is having to look at the material they ship in.

The rumour is Intel is planning a hybrid fiberglass and plastic chassis. Although magnesium-aluminium alloys are ideal, the price tag means manufacturers are having to push out products for more than $1,000.

At Computex in Taiwan earlier this year, Intel was very keen to emphasise that the Ultrabook is the next natural stage in the personal computer’s evolution. Of course, it’s also a response to Apple cornering the tablet market where Intel has been very late to the table. The problem is, such a fancy device has manufacturers worried that they won’t be able to offer the alternative form factor for a reasonable price.

Intel itself has told us that, as with all things, prices tend to drop some time after launching. But this sends out a strong message to potential earlier adopters: just wait. So, then, it’s crucial Intel works out pricing if it is not to be hoist by its own petard. HP was, until it discontinued the TouchPad and flogged them for a low price, when suddenly they turned into hotcakes.

Another problem is design. Plastic is more versatile in offering different colours or designs, but Apple knows exactly how to draw up a sleek product that looks and feels classy. 

Intel is all too aware of this, say Digitimes’ sources in the PC supply chain, which is why it is in talks with fiberglass supplier Mitac Technology to figure out a cheaper chassis material. Mitac has allegedly won contracts with Ultrabook partners Acer, Asustek and Lenovo