Intel issues 'Ultrabook' reference specs with sub-$710 BOMs

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As notebook makers struggle to produce thin-and-light notebooks that compete with Apple's MacBook Air on price, Intel has sent a reference bill of materials to its partners with costs of $475-$650 for 21mm notebooks and $493-$710 for 18mm models, according to an unconfirmed report.

Citing sources at notebook makers, DigiTimes reported Friday that Intel is playing an active role in keeping notebooks in its newly-defined "Ultrabook" class, which brings "tablet-like features" to thin-and-light notebooks, below the $1,000 threshold. The chipmaker's reported BOM does not include assembly costs.

According to the report, Intel will meet with notebook ODM partners in Taiwan next week to discuss its proposed BOM and other details related to the standard. Sources said Intel is already pushing next-generation Ultrabooks based on its 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs in 2012 and Haswell-based models in 2013.

The company has reportedly rendered five reference designs for 18mm models, which will not include an optical disk drive, including Asustek's upcoming UX21 and UX31 laptops. Despite Intel's efforts to keep Ultrabooks in the sub-$1000 range, the 13.3-inch UX31 will cost $1600.

The publication reported earlier this week that Intel and its partners have been "aggressively searching" for new materials to build chassis for Ultrabook designs. Apple is said to have booked up the majority of capacity for CNC lathes required to build unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis. Ultrabook makers are reportedly considering going with fiberglass instead, a move that could save as much as $50-$100.

According to one report last week, PC makers have struggled to match Apple's pricing with its MacBook Air. Some notebook makers have reportedly discovered that actual production costs for their Ultrabook designs are roughly as high as retail prices for Apple's ultra-lightweight laptops.

Intel unveiled the Ultrabook design guidelines in May at the Computex trade show. Skeptics initially criticized it as no more than a netbook "makeover."

Apple refreshed the MacBook Air line last month, adding Sandy Bridge processors, a high-speed Thunderbolt port and back-lit keyboards. After the Mac maker added an 11.6-inch version and dropped the price of the entry-level MacBook Air to $999 last year, the ultra-thin notebook became a breakout success. The latest version has reportedly sold out at some locations.