Ultrabook prices are expected to drop substantially when second-generation designs arrive featuring Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge CPU. Ivy's not expected until the spring, but it looks like the current crop of ultrabooks could get some relief before then. DigiTimes' sources claim Asus, Acer, and Toshiba will lower prices on their ultrabooks before the end of the year. Prices will drop again in the first quarter of next year thanks to a $100 marketing subsidy from Intel, the sources say.
Coincidentally, we've already heard rumors Apple is readying a round of price cuts for the MacBook Air—the original ultrabook. Those cuts are reportedly coming before the Air lineup is refreshed with Ivy Bridge CPUs, so I'd expect them to hit around the same time as Intel's supposed subsidy. With the cheapest ultrabook on the market currently selling for about $900, the Air could end up facing rivals as cheap as $800 early next year.
Lower prices will certainly help the appeal of ultrabooks, but I'm still not sold on the compromises required to squeeze these systems into arbitrarily slim chassis. Battery capacities have taken a particularly big hit, resulting in ultraportables with shorter battery life than their predecessors. At least one PC maker has told us its market research shows consumers associating higher quality with technology products that are thinner and lighter than their peers. In the old days, megahertz mattered. Now, it's all about millimeters.