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Google Chromebook Outshines Intel Ultrabook

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There are three major constraints facing a laptop maker's product: size/weight; performance (CPU, GPU and connectivity); and price.

Intel's (INTC) new processors powering its "Ultrabook" goal for late 2011 professes to combine an 11.6-inch, 2.2-pound laptop, performance that's on par with today's larger i7 Core processors, and starting below $1,000.

It would appear that Intel is setting a low bar for itself. Let's start with the Apple MacBook Air comparison. This outstanding laptop starts at $1,000 ($1,250 with 3-year warranty), 2.3 lbs and is almost as thin as any laptop in the market. It would appear that the only areas where the Ultrabook laptops beat the current MacBook Air are in CPU performance and battery life.

But wait! Two things about CPU performance:

1. Apple (AAPL) looks to be upgrading its MacBook Air very soon with what may even be a beefed-up Intel CPU. How does this relate precisely to the Ultrabook processors promised for 4Q? Will consumers understand or care?

2. More importantly, I argue that for basic business productivity, CPU performance probably doesn't matter anymore. Even the most basic processors long before the Ultrabook laptops arrive, can handle your typing, spreadsheets, presentations, and basic Web surfing. More and more people are using Google Docs and equivalent, and live 100% of their laptop computing lives inside the browser, i.e., in the cloud.

What matters more than incremental CPU performance is GPU performance. Video quality has yet to be perfected inside the envelope of a very thin and cheap laptop. Typing this article on my Google Chromebook does in and of itself not look any different than it would on a Mac or Windows laptop, but there is still a large discrepancy in terms of video quality between all sorts of laptops.

But where do people watch mobile video now anyway? I argue that I don't watch anything more than brief news clips and equivalent on my laptop, typically from YouTube. This type of video doesn't even warrant that high a quality. I think people increasingly watch more entertainment-quality video on the tablet, such as the iPad, Android or Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry PlayBook.

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