The big corporations really do rule the world these days. The politicians have all been bought out by them and in many places around the world business regulations often prevent circumventing the big company pricing with low-cost initiatives by competitors (often accomplished by import regulations). But at least in the US there is still enough freedom from regulation and control such that smaller rebel vendors out there can put downward pressure on entrenched market prices. My favorite tech vendor of all time was eMachines. They broke the $500 barrier on desktop machines a few years back (when they were small). Until they came along, desktops had been stuck at $800 or more for some time. The established vendors had a good profit margin going and they weren't about to rock the boat. eMachines started a revolution in tech pricing by building machines that were designed to the level of the user's needs, and managed to cut the costs of machines by doing it.
Now the same thing is happening with laptops in the US. The big companies and established retail vendors are trying hard not to fall below the $500 mark on laptops. But standard technology today can support a decent laptop that is completely acceptable to 80% of the users at a $300-400 price range. Of course, that would severely cut into the price differential between laptops and the new ultra-laptops, so established industry who have invested heavily in the new ultra-laptops trend really don't want to see that price differential disappear.
The point is though, that kind of market battle can still take place in the US. It can be economically hard for a small vendor here in the US to go up against the likes of HP or Dell or even a Walmart, but they aren't precluded by regulatory controls from trying to do so. In Europe, for example, the marketplace has gotten too regulated for this to happen. The governments in Europe are squeezing the small vendors out for the benefit of the big companies and retailers. It's a sad story.
But do keep your eyes on small vendors in the US. For example, Micro Center Online. They often have a low cost laptop in their offerings in the $350-400 price range. They are currently offering this Lenovo for $400. http://www.microcent...l?product_id=0283496
The previous low cost laptop they offered was an Acer at $359.00. These laptops may not be as small as the new ultra-laptops, but they are perfectly acceptable for many uses, are price competitive with the ultras, and are definitely more powerful.