Thin ultrabook computers may star at Consumer Electronics Show

By Andy Vuong

If 2011 was the year of the tablet, 2012 will be the year of the ultrabook.

CES 2012

CES 2012

Technology companies launched more than 100 tablet computers at last January’s International Consumer Electronics Show, and an estimated 56 million were sold worldwide throughout the year.

At CES 2012, which kicks off Tuesday in Las Vegas, at least 30 to 40 ultrabooks will be introduced, organizers say.

The ultra-thin, portable computers may replace two product lines in one fell swoop: netbooks and traditional laptops.

“If you look at the entire laptop or notebook category, what you’re looking at is really the end of that category as we know it, and everything migrates to an ultra-thin or ultrabook form-factor,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst for research firm Parks Associates.

The annual CES is billed as the world’s largest consumer technology trade show, attracting 149,000 attendees last year.

The four-day event will feature more than 2,700 exhibitors and 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space this year.

Many technological innovations have launched or caught fire at the show, such as VCRs, DVD players and high-definition TVs.

Ultrabooks feature a thin form-factor similar to tablets and netbooks but pack the computing muscle and full-size keyboards found on regular laptops.

Not necessarily new, ultrabooks are essentially Windows-based clones of Apple’s MacBook Air​, a model that was released in 2008 and is less than 1-inch thick.

But much like what occurred with tablets — a market dominated by Apple’s iPad before last year’s CES — new versions from different manufacturers will mean far more variety and lower prices for consumers. Many will likely be powered by Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 8 operating system and include instant-on solid state hard drives, which eliminate long initial boot times. Chipmaker Intel is the key player behind the ultrabook push. More info