Intel Adds to the Naming Confusion in Portable PCs

Intel (INTC), which helped shake up the PC industry last year by promoting low-priced laptops called netbooks, is at it again. But there’s not such a memorable name this time.

The chip giant is expected to use the Computex trade show this week to discuss a category of portables that fall in a price band between netbooks–which can start at less than $300–and full-featured notebooks, which often cost more than $1,000. Price is not the only distinguishing feature; these ‘tweener portables also will be touted as sleek and stylish–think of Apple’s MacBook Air, but with a starting price of $600 to $700 instead of $1,799.

“Thin is in,” summed up Sean Maloney, Intel’s top salesman, during a speech to analysts in May that provided a sneak preview of the strategy. He predicted a steep sales ramp for the new category, which he labeled on one slide as “ultra-thin affordable.” Just to confuse things, many analysts refer to the niche as CULV, which stands for “consumer ultra-low voltage.” (Instead of Intel’s Atom–a microprocessor used in most netbooks that starts at a list price of $29–the new systems are expected to be based on price-reduced versions of its Core 2 design, which now starts at $113 and up).

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