Why ultrabooks are flopping. Free analysis!

1. They have touchscreens and there is about zero user need for them on notebooks or desktops. They are about as useless as tits on a boar hog, as my dad was wont to explain. Steve Jobs and the gorilla arms reference was right all along. If I am using a keyboard and mouse or a keyboard and a good touchpad, then it is more work (and less precise) to touch a screen. I go from hands resting on a keyboard to arms extended to a screen. The cost of a touchscreen gets built into a machine and people are price sensitive, especially in the current economy. Also, it turns people off when they see all of the smearing and goo stuck on screens of demo machines on showroom floors. Hands are often dirty, but we don’t notice it on black keys. It stands out like crazy on screens. I have an absolute obsession about having a clean screen and NEVER TOUCH IT except with soft pad to clean it.

2. The darn things are way overpriced. I can still buy economical netbooks that do most everything that an ultrabook does for a fraction of the price. I can buy dirt-cheap full-sized notebooks for a small percentage of what an ultrabook would cost. The price differential for a small boost in performance and a bit less weight just isn’t there — especially when cheaper netbooks packed almost as much real-world performance (outside of gaming) in a light-weight package.

3. Windows 8. Yes, I had to get to it. I have watched people on the sales floor of my local big computer store look at the shiny new ultrabooks and try to figure out how to make W8 work. After a few minutes, they give up and walk away. It would be like going to test drive a car and you can’t find where to put the key, the gear shift is in the glove box, and the turn signals have to be operated from the truck. Microsoft really hosed their OEM vendors here and the smartest one seems to be Lenovo, which ships their systems with a utility to restore the Windows 7 start menu.

So, what is to be done. Here is free advice.

1. Get a clue that nobody wants touchscreens on anything but a smart phone or a tablet. These devices are used either flat or close to it, so it makes sense from an ergonomic standpoint.

2. Cut the prices. A lot. People can buy a lot of computer for $400 in the netbook or standard notebook market. They are not crazy about dropping multiples of that for something that offers marginal improvement.

3. Offer either Windows 7 or offer to ship Windows 8 preconfigured to look and work like Windows 7. You want people trying out the machine on the store aisle to be able to DO SOMETHING with it right off the bat. Next, the vendors need to pull Microsoft aside and SCREAM AT THEM until they get a promise that Windows 8.2 will come with the option of the complete Windows 7 user-interface, themes, and Aero look. Microsoft needs these vendors and apparently forgot that little fact when foisting Windows 8 on them (and Vista and Windows ME).


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