(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PANAJI: A year and a half after pioneering its Ultrabooks strategy, Intel, the world's largest semiconductor chip maker is seeking to up the stakes in the segment that is witnessing increasing adoption.
Ultrabooks -- a type of notebooks whose specifications have been defined by Intel -- will soon see voice-enabled capabilities alongside touch and gesture support that Intel feels will drastically improve the user experience.
Leighton Phillips, director, product management pricing at Intel Asia-Pacific told TOI "that a number of innovations are pouring into Ultrabooks."
"Intel wants to drive the industry," stated Hong Kong-based Phillips. He said over there are over 140 Ultrabook designs and around half of these incorporating the Ivy Bridge chip have hit the market.
Attempting to give consumers a peek into the upcoming innovation in the segment, Phillips disclosed that Ultrabooks will soon have a wider array of sensors.
He said that a lot of research has been devoted to keeping the thermal envelope of the microprocessor low and various tests had been carried out to determine whether the processor chip should be placed under the keyboard or behind the screen. Since PCs use a lot of energy, it was essential to get it right in Ultrabooks, he contended. The thermal design power (TDP) of the chip has been brought down to 15W from the 35W earlier, he added.
He said work has also gone into bringing capabilities for convertible and detachable devices where screens could be detachable and touch-based.
Phillips listed an assortment of sensors that are being incorporated into the newer breed of Ultrabooks including touch sensor, proximity sensor, camera, microphone, accelerometer, GPS, gyroscope, e-compass, and ambient light sensor.
"When these sensors are combined, the magic begins to take life," he noted.
"This was critical innovation that had to happen," pointed out Phillips, who has spent the past 23 years in the IT industry, 12 of which have been with Intel.
Phillips revealed the next breed of Ultrabooks will be voice enabled. This was made possible by Intel's collaboration with speech recognition technology firm Nuance Communications earlier this year.
Phillips observed that the demand for having voice on Ultrabooks was beginning to increase. He said a survey conducted by Intel noticed that 64% of respondents would prefer to be able to use voice-capable Ultrabooks daily. He said respondents displayed a willingness to pay $25 extra for an Ultrabook with voice capability. He felt this could help OEMs create an incremental revenue opportunity.
Phillips remarked that while conventional search may take around 20 seconds, voice-enabled search was almost instantaneous. Voiced search could be used on search engines, Facebook, iTunes and Amazon, he said.
Besides search, the voice commands would enable users to play music by simply calling out the track they wished to listen to. Phillips termed this as "simple and valued interaction."
He said voice capability had also thrown up some unexpected usage instances like searching for directions. He was of the view that doing tasks through voice, allows users to engage in parallel usage.
Phillips also said that the technology had the provision of creating macro commands such as searching and then printing results, besides VoIP. He said among other tasks, email had seen higher usage of voice.
Ultimately, voice-enabled technology would lead to "broader innovations into browsers," stated Phillips.
He said a lot of work was underway to determine the placement of the microphone with a number of trials conducted and the progress was extremely encouraging.
The first voice-enabled Ultrabooks will be available in the first quarter of next year, revealed Phillips.
He said while these Ultrabooks will roll out optimised for US English initially, 2013 will see an evolving focus on other languages and accent nuances such as British, Australian and Indian English. "We're fully aware of getting optimisation for other languages," he said.
Phillips also clarified that voice capability "doesn't add a whole lot of cost" and there are software licensing agreements in place.
Talking of touch technology which is rapidly becoming ubiquitous with smart devices, Phillips said there were a number of industry benchmarks for touch. "Windows 8 is very positive (with regard to touch) from Intel's perspective," he added.
In a survey conducted by the chipmaker, 80% consumers reached for a touch-enabled device, disclosed Phillips. He said Intel was trying to understand how consumers use touch.
Stating that "touch is the new norm," he observed that there is a shift from non-touch to touch based computing. He said capacity had been booked from top four touch panel vendors for continued supplies. The touch-based screens will be 13.3", 11.6" and 10", he said.
The cost for such screens will be $50 or less in 2013, Phillips revealed. However, optical touch can be manufactured cheaper, he added.
Phillips said gesture recognition was based on the same camera technology used for facial recognition. He listed edutainment and gaming as primary beneficiaries of gesture recognition and felt for this technology to evolve, it was essential to understand how gamers would interact with devices.
Another application of this technology was office applications, "where one could use gestures to progress though the slides of a presentation." Other possible uses could include cycling through open applications besides minimising, resizing or docking application windows.
He said gestures could also be used for content creation such as virtual music mixing. Phillips opined that gesture recognition could bring forth more "interesting concepts" and said "we are just scratching the surface so far."
Phillips revealed that newer Ultrabooks will possibly have "connected standby capability" which will enable the devices to perform tasks such as dialling someone through a Bluetooth handset even in standby mode.
He said proximity sensors on Ultrabooks will be know when users are walking away and put the device in a state of hibernation or lock it when the user crosses a certain perimeter.
Phillips also noted that a transition from stationary operating devices to touch-enabled convertible devices was occurring. He said a survey had revealed that 75% respondents wanted Ultrabook devices with touch and half of that number wanted the device to be a convertible.
Convertibles are devices that see a convergence of an Ultrabook and a touch-based adaptable screen. Convertibles are generally designed in tablet, flip or detachable form.
Describing possible usage models for convertibles, he said students can use the device for an assignment and then watch a video with the convertible slate. Or professionals could utilise the device for financial work and then employ the detachable tablet for web surfing.
With convertibles, one can produce content at one instant and be presenting it the next minute, Phillips elucidated.
He said that while there wasn't a particular winning design on convertibles, the detachable form was the most preferred by people surveyed.
The first Ultrabooks would cost $1,000, but now prices are around $750 while some are even $599, Phillips stated. He said $699-$750 would be an ideal pricing strategy for mainstream Ultrabooks to achieve volume.
"Every country has different import duties. Manufacturers don't have control over other taxes," he said pointing to some factors that impede competitive pricing.
Though Intel has shown a desire to tap the smartphone market especially by powering Google's Android operating system, Phillips said there were presently no plans for an Android Ultrabook.
"Many of the innovations and technology designed for Ultrabooks can now be seen in notebooks," Phillips said in conclusion while adding that Intel was keen on delivering quality technology that consumers have come to expect from it.