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Acer ‘s upcoming ultrabook laptop could hit the shelves as early as October, according to the latest reports.

Acer is one of several OEMs that have said they plan to adopt Intel s ultrabook concept for very thin and light notebooks, which could challenge Apple s MacBook Air systems. At the Computex 2011 show in June, Acer President Jim Wong said ultrabooks "can help revive the notebook market," which while seeing solid growth in enterprises continues suffering from slower consumer sales, thanks to such factors as the rise of tablets and the release in 2009 of Microsoft s Windows 7 operating system.

According to recent reports, Acer s Aspire 3951 will be a 13.3-inch system powered by Intel ‘s Core i Sandy Bridge processors. It will also offer a choice of 160GB SSD (solid-state drive) or hard-disk storage. In keeping with Intel’ s ultrabook concept, the system comes in at less than 0.8 inches thick at 0.51 inches, according to reports and weighs less than 3.1 pounds.

Ultrabooks also are expected to be less than $1,000, and rumors have the Aspire 3951 coming in as low as $770. That would be $200 plus less than the least-expensive MacBook Air, which is $999.

Photos said to be of the new aluminum-cased Acer ultrabook have popped up on the Internet, at the Vietnamese Website Sohoa.

Intel is putting a lot of effort and money behind the ultrabook concept. It was first unveiled at the Computex 2011 show in May, and Intel officials said they envision an ultra-thin and ultra-light system that offers the performance of traditional laptops with features including instant on, continuous connectivity and, eventually, touch capabilities found in tablets. According to reports, the Acer device can quickly come out of sleep mode in about 1.7 seconds.

Intel executives said they expect that by the end of 2012, 40 percent of laptops sold will be ultrabooks.

The chip maker has released three Core processors aimed at the ultrabook space, and will invest a significant amount of R&D dollars into the effort. In addition, to further entice OEMs to build ultrabooks, Intel is offering financial incentives as well as reference designs to help them keep the price of the systems under $1,000.

Asus officials, who took the stage with Intel at Computex to tout the concept, have said they expect to release the UX21 ultrabook in the fall. Along with Asus and Acer, other OEMs reportedly interested in launching ultrabooks include Hewlett-Packard, LG Electronics and Lenovo.

Some OEMs reportedly are reluctant to embrace the idea, waiting instead to see how Asus s UX21 flies before deciding whether to sign on. Intel s attempts at CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low-Voltage) thin notebooks in 2009 are giving some systems makers pause. The CULV idea didn t get much traction in the marketplace, and now such systems face even more competition from tablets like Apple s iPad and a host of Android-powered devices.

There also is concern over whether ultrabooks can be built and sold for less than $1,000, an issue that Intel s reference design aimed to address.

Initially, ultrabooks will use Intel s Core i5 or i7 chips based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, with new 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge processors arriving next year. The upcoming chips, which will feature Intel s new Tri-Gate transistor architecture, are designed to improve performance and energy efficiency.