Intel has been quite masterful with its branding in recent years. With Netbook and now Ultrabook it has trademarked a category name and then imposed tight restrictions on what this means. These tight restrictions in turn both help to define what people should expect from the category, and stop competitors from riding its coattails.
This is not how AMD historically operates, so we were quite surprised when The Australian reported (the bulk of the story is unfortunately behind a paywall) that the company was planning on launching ‘Ultrathin’ as a competitor to ‘Ultrabook’. This story has been picked up by web sites like Tom’s Hardware and Gizmodo, and is starting to do the rounds globally.
The problem is AMD doesn’t have any plans for ‘Ultrathin’ as a label. An AMD spokesperson confirmed that when AMD’s Country Manager, Brian Slattery, used the term ultra-thin, he was referring to form factor.
It's no secret AMD wants to get its Fusion APUs into as many mobile devices as possible. These processors combine both a traditional CPU core and a GPU core on the same silicon, which allows for fantastic battery life and mobile performance. They deliver noticeably better graphics than Intel’s competing products but less raw CPU performance, a trade-off that works quite well in the mobile space.
This low power design has been a massive success for AMD, whose main problem seems to be that it cannot get enough of the chips made by their foundry partner. The products powered by the APUs have impressed us over the course of this year, delivering a fantastic mix of performance and battery life that AMD has not been historically known for.
We suspect this is why some companies are slapping other branding on top of Ultrabook. Take ASUS with its Zenbook tag. By pushing Zenbook as the brand it opens up the possibility of releasing AMD, or even ARM based, processors in the ultra-thin form factor, without being put in the awkward position of needing a whole new way of branding them.
Expect to see a new range of ultra-thin AMD based laptops at CES early next year, but you won’t see any AMD-specific special branding beyond AMD’s normal laptop designations.
Also read: Enter the Ultrabook: making the Windows laptop v MacBook decision
Acer S3 review: The Ultrabook is here, and it impresses on almost every level
First Look: ASUS' 13in UX31 Ultrabook
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Issue: 345 | December 2015