By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Intel unveiled a new category of laptops that it says will include the best features of tablets as the world's top chipmaker struggles to find its footing in the exploding market for mobile gadgets.
At the Computex technology exhibition in Taipei, computer maker Asus is expected to show off its first new PC in the "Ultrabook" class, and Intel said it and models made by other manufacturers would go on sale by Christmas and cost under $1,000.
The Ultrabooks will be svelte and lightweight but still pack high-performace processors. They should account for 40 percent of laptop sales to consumers by the end of next year, Tom Kilroy, a senior vice president at Intel, told Reuters in an interview.
"We're shooting for ultra responsive. You'll have always-on, always-connected, much more responsive devices, similar to what you would see with a tablet today such as an iPad," he said.
Santa Clara, California-based Intel is eager to make laptops more attractive to consumers who are increasingly captivated by Apple's iPad and other mobile gadgets.
Its processors power 80 percent of the world's PCs but Intel has failed so far to adapt them for smartphones and tablets. Manufacturers like Motorola and Apple favor processors made using energy-efficient technology licensed by Britain's ARM Holdings.
This month, Intel took the wraps off next-generation "3D" technology that crams more transistors onto microchips, betting it will eventually become a significant advantage in tablets and smartphones.
Intel also plans to shrink the circuits on its mobile chips by three sizes within three years -- a faster pace than normal --to make them much more efficient.
Kilroy declined to comment on recent speculation that PC maker Acer Inc is planning to launch a tablet within months using Intel's brand new Oak Trail chip and Google's Android operating system. Acer could not be reached for comment.
Such a device would be a major test of Oak Trail, Intel's first chip designed specifically for tablets and able to support the widely popular Android platform.
The Ultrabook is not the first PC category that Intel and Asus have promoted together. In 2007, Asus introduced a small and simplified laptop that is widely viewed as the first of many low-cost "netbooks" geared toward surfing the Internet.
Kilroy said that prices for Ultrabook laptops would likely fall to around $600 within a couple of years.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by David Gregorio)