Intel has announced a massive $300m (£185m) fund to help develop Ultrabook hardware and software, and it's confident that Ultrabooks will make up 40% of the market by 2012.
So what is an Ultrabook and why should you care? Let's find out.

Ultrabooks are a bit like things you've already seen

The best way to think of an Ultrabook is a MacBook Air that isn't made by Apple, a netbook that isn't underpowered or a laptop that's been on a crash diet.
Ultrabook designs we've seen so far look awfully Apple-y, with super-thin cases and aeroplane-friendly 11.6-inch displays.

Ultrabook specs will not be low-end

Although Ultrabooks are designed for maximum portability, we're told that they won't make the same compromises that netbooks did: the Ultrabook specifications should be akin to mainstream laptops, not cheap netbooks.
The first models will ship with Sandy Bridge Core processors, followed by Ivy Bridge chips in 2012 and Haswell processors in 2013. The first Ultrabook to break cover, the Asus UX21, boasts SSD storage and USB 3.0 connectivity.

There are three Ultrabook manufacturers so far

Lenovo, Asustek and Acer are the first firms to throw their hats into the Ultrabook ring, although we'd expect everybody else to join in if the sector proves popular.

Ultrabook features will become more impressive over time

That's where Intel's $300m fund comes in: the firm wants to create "a cycle of innovation and system capabilities". Whatever that means.

Ultrabook specifications are heavy on battery life and portability

Haswell chips promise to use half the power of current-generation processors, although even today's Core processors are more efficient than processors of old. Just ask Apple, whose Core-powered MacBook Air runs for ages.

The Ultrabook price should eventually undercut Apple

Intel's pushing hard for sub-$1,000 price tags, which just happens to be the price of a MacBook Air. However, it seems that Ultrabook manufacturers are finding that hard to achieve: DigiTimes reports that the Bill of Materials, the total cost of building an Ultrabook, will be more than $700 - and there are software licenses on top of that.
Manufacturers are already demanding Intel cuts its prices or subsidises their efforts. Intel points out that as sales go up, prices will drop. We're taking that to mean that the typical Ultrabook price won't be sub-$1,000 for a while.

The Ultrabook release date could be before Christmas

Manufacturers are keen to sell some kit before Christmas, so Ultrabooks such as the Asus UX21 should turn up in late 2011 with Core i7 processors. The Asus Ultrabook price hasn't been announced yet, but we're expecting a September release date.