To help other PC manufacturers replicate the MacBook Air's runaway sales, Intel defined its specifications as the Ultrabook: slim, lightweight SSD-based laptops without the performance compromises of a netbook. But as soon as they became successful, the vendors slid, applying the hot branding to any old thing in their lineup: Samsung now has 4lb "Ultrabooks" with hard disks and optical drives.
Dan Ackerman charts how they lost sight of what they were doing, even after "Intel even set aside $300 million to help PC makers develop these new systems."
Instead of looking for an Intel ultrabook sticker on a laptop and knowing that it's going to be very thin, very light, rely on SSD storage, boot quickly, and run for a long time on a battery charge, now consumers will have to go back to checking the size and weight specs carefully. How is that helpful for anybody? … The ultrabook, as originally presented, is still an idea whose time has come. Apple's MacBook Air proved that consumers could live without optical drives and large-capacity hard drives, and valued long battery life and portability over ports and connections
As a disappointed and temporary owner of one of these pretty things (I eventually went back to an elderly Thinkpad X200 for daily Windowsing and Linuxery), I'm just going to paste what I wrote months ago about what would happen to Ultrabooks:
Process by which marketing slowly loses sync with reality:
1. The MacBook Air is seen to conquer all.
2. Intel formalizes the sweet spot in computing that it represents, and brands it Ultrabook.
3. Some Ultrabooks are very good and the branding play gets some traction.
5. Samsung starts branding refrigerators "Ultrabooks."
Ackerman thinks it's a good thing, though, because now PCs are lighter and better-designed in general. Sure, but that would have happened anyway. The insta-dilution of Ultrabook as a product concept highlights a problem for consumer electronics companies that make one of everything: most of their products fail, which means they become driven by novelty and branding association plays. The idea of making and marketing the same thing the same way for more than a few months is alien to industry DNA coded in the age of Dell computers and 20 new Walkmans a year.