HP Folio Ultrabook: A Happy Meal For The Road Warrior

Enterprise laptops are on the shopping list for many I&O professionals I speak with every week, with some asking if Netbooks are the antidote to the MacBook Air for their people. Well, on the menu of enterprise laptops, I think of Netbooks as an appetizer -- inexpensive, but after an hour my stomach is growling again. Garden-variety ultraportables on the other hand are like a turkey sandwich -- everything I need to keep me going, but they make me sleepy halfway through the afternoon.

Ultrabooks are a new class of notebook promoted by Intel and are supposed to be a little more like caviar and champagne -- light and powerful, but served on business-class china with real silverware and espresso. At least that's what I took away after being briefed by Intel on the topic. I had the chance to sample HP's new Ultrabook fare in San Francisco a few weeks ago while they were still in the test kitchen, and it seems they took a little different approach. Not bad, just different.

It struck me that rather than beluga and Dom Perignon , HP has created more of a Happy Meal -- a tasty cheeseburger and small fries with a Diet Coke, in a lightweight, easy to carry package for a bargain price. It has everything the road warrior needs to get things done, and like a Happy Meal, they can carry it on the plane and set it on the tray table…even if the clown in front of them reclines. Folio offers the Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB RAM, a 13.3" LED display and a 128GB SSD storage, a 9-hour battery and USB 3.0 + Ethernet ports as highlights, all for $900. It's a true bargain. I think I will call it the McUltrabook.

The big benefit I see is the SSD storage. 256GB would have been better as at least an option, but I could live with 128 if I ditched my MP3 collection. If you haven't used a notebook with an SSD drive, do it. Once you do, you will NEVER go back to spindles. SSD goes a long way toward making the corporate PC -- laden with layer after layer of management crapware -- usable again.

While I'm thrilled to see HP embrace the Ultrabook model, I'm a little disappointed that they don't yet offer one for the Dom Perignon and BMW crowd. For this demographic, the computer they use is the most important tool they carry, and they usually have the scratch to buy their own. According to the Q2 2011 US Workforce Technology And Engagement Online Survey, Power Laptop Users make 44% more money than Casual Desktop Users, for an average of $87K/year.

Top chefs learned years ago that cheaping out on critical kitchen tools is a false economy, and I think that in the world of consumerized IT, HP would do well to start offering Ultrabooks next year that are built up to a standard, instead of down to a price. All the same, at $900, they'll probably sell like...well...Happy Meals. I&O Professionals with 1970s budgets have a new weapon in the fight for mobility for the masses. It's a steal for the price.

What do you think? Is the HP Folio going to stem the tide of MacBook Airs? Is it a worthy competitor to the other Ultrabooks on the market?