Just like it did with multimedia and CD-ROM in 1995 and with Centrino mobile technology and Wi-Fi in 2003, Intel is setting its sights on transforming the PC industry again. This time the vehicle is Ultrabook. In his IDF keynote today, Intel vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group Mooly Eden outlined how Ultrabook devices will transform both consumer and business computing.

Eden introduced one of the new breed of psychologists and anthropologists at Intel who are trying to understand what users want from a PC by close observation of how people really interact with technology in their lives.

Eden explained that user experience is driving the processor design and joked that he’d had a few battles with the social scientists who are doing the research. But gone are the days when electrical engineers (EEs) designed a system without input from these social scientists.

Their research has shown users want six things from personal computers: mobility, peace of mind, reasonable price, power to create, design that reflects the individual’s taste, and an immersive and responsive experience.

Not to be outdone, Eden explained how his EEs and software engineers had tackled these challenges.

  • Mobility. Intel has trademarked the Ultrabook name so that it can require OEMs to meet certain design targets that include driving the thickness of an Ultrabook to less than his forefinger – and he assured us that he didn’t have fat forefinger!
  • Peace of Mind. Mooly demonstrated new Intel Identity Theft protection and hinted at upcoming announcements from credit companies that will help make on-line transactions more secure. He also demo’d anti-theft technology that Intel is working on with McAfee that will be the first to take advantage of unique, Intel chip-level technologies and will provide device and data protection for consumers such as device lock, data wipe and location tracking.
  • Reasonable price. If the OEMs can hit the below $1000 price, this one looks pretty good.
  • Power to create. 2nd generation Intel Core processors should give it the power it needs.
  • Design. This is another one that is up to the OEMs. But the initial designs they showed at IDF looked pretty cool. Eden had disguised an Ultrabook by sandwiching it in a three-year old notebook to show how thin it was and pulled it out to ooohs and aaahs from the audience.
  • Immersive and responsive. Intel Rapid Start means it wakes up quickly. And Intel Smart Connect means it downloads your email and software updates while it’s sleeping so that it’s ready to go.

Showing off what will make this even more attractive to enterprise, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 8 working and running several applications on the Ultrabook devices and pointed to the future opportunities that the new OS will present across multiple compute devices such as tablets, hybrids and new form factors like Ultrabook.

I’m sure you will hear a lot more on Ultrabooks as Intel laid out plans for three generations of devices. Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect to see:

  • 2011: In time for this holiday season, you’ll see systems—some under $1000—from Toshiba, Lenova, Asus, Acer, Samsung and LG. These will include features such as Intel Rapid Start, always-on always-connected, Intel Smart Connect, and built-in security.
  • 2012: Several ODMs, including Compal, Foxconn, Inventec, Pegatron and Quanta were already showing working systems based upon the 3rd generation Intel Core family processor that will deliver technologies such as a touch user interface, context aware sensors, and Thunderbolt (the new, high-speed, dual-protocol I/O technology that Apple is already offering on some of its systems).
  • 2013: Based on the processor code-named Haswell, this generation of Ultrabooks will include world class battery life, sensor-based synch and media sharing, and near-field communication.