Can Intel’s new chips help sell more PCs?

Apr 23, 2012

FORTUNE -- Intel (intc) unveiled its third-generation Core processors at a press event in San Francisco Monday morning. The new chips, codenamed Ivy Bridge, are now available for desktop computers and regular laptops, and are expected to be in Ultrabooks -thin laptops that compete with Apple’s (aapl) MacBook Air -- in the coming months.

These are the first chips developed using Intel’s 22-nanometer 3-D tri-gate transistor technology. What does that mean? Faster, more energy efficient PCs are in the pipeline. Who cares about PCs? Well, Intel for starters.

Despite recent announcements, Intel is far from being a real player in the fast-growing mobile chip market. Its bread-and-butter is still the PC industry, which is why the company is hell-bent on reinvigorating demand for personal computers and sustaining Moore’s Law for years to come. To that end, the Santa Clara-based chipmaker is throwing its marketing muscle into Ultrabooks, the new category of thin, power-efficient laptops. Research firm IDC estimates that anywhere from 30 million to 40 million ultrabooks will be sold worldwide in 2012. And the upcoming launch of Microsoft’s (msft) Windows 8 touch-centric operating system is expected to unleash a new breed of Intel-running, tablet-meets-laptop computers.

MORE: Intel's (latest) mobile comeback

Then again, competing chips designed by British company ARM Holdings will also be in Windows 8 devices, so while the new OS represents an opportunity for Intel to get some of its PC mojo back, it will also bring new competition to the table.

One thing is clear—unlike ARM Intel is deep-pocketed and a savvy marketer, and it will continue to push the Ultrabooks category with all its might. The company has brought on musician to help make Ultrabooks cool (he once referred to the laptops as a the new “ghetto blaster”). At Monday morning’s press event Intel showed off a slickly-produced video highlighting its new Ivy Bridge chips.

A release issued on the same day said the new processors will bring “exciting new experiences and fun to the PC.” Better performance, rich media and graphics are great, but the average laptop buyer cares more about price than Moore's Law and the latest and greatest processing technology. To really attract consumers Intel will have to keep pushing price points down. By end of the year, Ultrabooks are expected to be offered for around $699, while new MacBook Airs start at $999.

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