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Reacting to Apple at CES 2012 part one: Intel's Ultrabooks

Without even making an official appearance at CES as an exhibitor, Apple has become an invisible hand directing the show and what the company's competitors choose to promote as their future strategies. Here's a look at how the industry is chasing Apple at this year's CES.

Reacting to Apple at CES 2012, part one: Intel's Ultrabooks
Reacting to Apple at CES 2012, part two: Samsung's Galaxy Note
Reacting to Apple at CES 2012, part three: Sony, Motorola, RIM, Nokia

Apple has played the rhinoceros to many campfires lit at CES over the past several years, stomping out netbooks and Microsoft's Windows 8 Slate PC with the iPad and Google's Nexus One with iPhone 4 in 2010, and then returning a year later to extinguish any flames of excitement surrounding RIM's PlayBook and Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets with iPad 2.

This year, two of the biggest initiatives at CES, Intel's Ultrabooks and Samsung's Galaxy Note pad-phone with a stylus, were clearly aimed at responding to two of Apple's most successful products.

Are Intel's Ultrabooks the MacBook Heir?

Positioned next to Microsoft near the central entrance of the trade show, Intel had a selection of Ultrabooks on display from Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba, all "inspired by Intel" in the sense that they are based on the company's chipsets and design recommendations.

While clearly patterned after Apple's MacBook Air, Intel really has competition from Qualcomm in mind, specifically the rival chipmaker's new ARM-based Snapdragon S4, which is aimed at delivering a new wave of tablets and netbook-like devices that will be able to run not just Android but also eventually Windows 8 at some point after it ships at the end of this year.

While Qualcomm was represented at CES, Apple wasn't, forcing AppleInsider to supply its own MacBook Air for direct comparisons with the Ultrabooks on display in Intel's booth. In the photos below, the MacBook Air has the backlit keyboard, while the Ultrabooks appear affixed with Windows and Intel stickers.

Microsoft's efforts to port Windows 8 to ARM (in order to compete with Apple's iPad in the tablet market) scares Intel enough to make it willing to risk its relatively new Intel Mac partnership with Apple to pursue its own Ultrabook strategy aimed at cloning the success of the MacBook Air across other PC makers. The biggest problem for Ultrabooks is that they're too expensive to compete with the MacBook Air.

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