Apple informed Intel that unless it can lower the power threshold, it will have to take its business elsewhere. It was like a slap in the face, a wakeup call. So you can thank Apple for ultrabooks coming from Intel and PC makers. Because of Apple's demand, Intel has lowered the power consumptions to 15W. On top of that, because of Apple's $999 entry point, ultrabook makers will have to match that point if not lower to entice users to buy them over the Airs.
First, what is an ultrabook? The ultrabook is a new laptop with a form factor that should be similar to the Macbook Air line from Apple. Think of them as Macbook Airs that runs Windows. Engadget has some pictures and hands-on videos of Asus' UX21 ultra book.
According to Boy Genius Report, Acer, Asus, and Lenovo plan on launching UB in the fourth quarter for under $999. Not $1000 but $999. I doubt we're talking about $998 but something much lower than $999. However, others doubt they can achieve this price point.
Some notebook makers expect the cost to be $700, which does not leave a lot of room for profit. So, Intel has set aside $300 million to subsidize the initial cost. Given the size of the PC market, it's not much but it is a start.
Current subnotebooks on the market competing with the Macbook Air are hundreds of dollars higher than the Apple's offering. For example, Samsung's Series 9 costs $200 to $500 more than equivalent Macbook Airs.
On a personal level, I applaud Intel's move. It moves mobile tech forward while offering substantial competitive pressure in the marketplace. Speed, software, battery life, and other innovations will push forward the threshold of what is achievable today.
Intel's move in this instance could be the result of the need for self-preservation than an entirely altruistic reason. Apple has already threatened to pull its business. ARM chips could one day rival the processing power of today's CPUs used in most laptops. Intel's ultrabook push will help it keep Apple interested while making sure that it has the means to compete with Apple's Airs and other mobile devices when Apple does move beyond Intel's chips.