"8GB was something acceptable back in 2008... but a laptop should be at 16, if not 32 gigs of RAM."
On what basis are you saying that? What are these deal-breaker applications that will need 32 or 16 gigs of RAM? Mind you, this post is about an ultra portable 13" laptop - I would assume that no one in their right mind would want to use this as a full blown workstation. I would imagine most users would use a laptop like this for standard stuff like browsing, Office apps, for presentations, etc.
Maybe a few would run Photoshop or Visual Studio or Eclipse. Is 8GB not enough for Photoshop or Eclipse anymore?? And I do feel that with HD 5500, 8GB RAM, and a speedy SSD, Photoshop would run just fine.
And back in 2008, Windows XP 64 bit had barely come out and almost no one was using 64 bit apps. From what I remember, almost everyone had between 2GB - 4GB RAM in standard laptop builds. Much less 8GB.
I'm honestly scratching my head to try and imagine why 32 GB or 16GB would be considered bare minimum for an ultraportable laptop.