Stimulating Developers with the Ultrabook Platform

Posted on 20 July 2012 by


I was invited by Intel to meet some developers yesterday. The Intel Ultrabook developers meet-up in Munich was casual and informative. We all enjoyed hands-on with some of the latest Ultrabooks but the conversation about why Ultrabooks could be interesting for developers was, for me, more interesting.

The common ground among us was not just Ultrabooks but the interesting business case around Windows 8 Metro applications and a potential multi-hundred million customers in 2013 alone.  200 million laptops with Windows 8 are likely to be sold in 2013. Many more millions of desktop PCs can be added to that along with the huge number of upgrades that people will buy. In a very short time, Windows 8 will have a massive installed user base connected to a monetized app store. Add the cross-pollination from Windows Mobile phones and the Microsoft Surface Tablet and it starts to get interesting.

As for Ultrabooks, we could also be looking at an interesting number of installed users although in the current form factor and build, they are nothing more than Windows 8 laptops. It does start to get interesting when we consider touch, sensors and other features though.

Stimulation by Rich Platform

Last night we had some brief hands-on with a touch-enabled Ultrabook prototype (we also had hands-on back at CeBIT too) and as we played, an interesting thing happened. We started to talk about new types of Metro apps and experiences. As we added sensors like GPS and accelerometer into the mix, even more ideas started flowing and that platform excitement is, I believe, one the most important aspects of the next-generation Ultrabook. If you make the platform and form-factor interesting, the developers get interested and when the developers get interested, great apps are created. When great apps get created, customers get more interested. The great thing about Windows 8 Ultrabooks with touch is that they won’t need 50 or 100 million units in the market before developers get interested. There will already be 50-100 million Metro-enabled devices out there and the economics of developing and selling an app is much more positive. Initially you’re likely to see ‘ultrabook-enabled’ versions of these Metro apps that takes advantage of GPS or touch but as time goes on there will even be apps created just for the touch experience. Microsoft Surface will help catalyse this and touchscreen and convertible Ultrabooks will benefit.

Looking outside Metro though, there are also things that can happen on the desktop with touch and sensors and there’s an interesting case building for Intel’s AppUp store which is being re-oriented to support Ultrabook applications. With location SDKs, in-app purchasing, multiple language support and marketing help from Intel we could be looking at a second opportunity for developers. Although this one is harder to imagine becoming as big as the Metro app store opportunity, it’s one that could support more business-focused applications and higher-cost applications. AppUp will go out on those Sprint Ultrabooks we mentioned last week and Intel are working on getting it pre-installed on more. We’ll keep a close eye on it for you although if you want to check it out, AppUp is already available here.

The birth of touch-enabled Windows 8 devices won’t just come from the Ultrabook project but Ultrabooks could form some of the fastest and most dynamic of the devices in terms of features and form factors. This is what appears to be getting the developers excited.

If you’re thinking about the Metro proposition, let us know what you think is important. Are you concerned with economics now or will you take the risk to get a lead on others that might wait? Are you happy with the development tools and APIs? Does touch excite you more than sensors? What other features are you thinking about. One that we talked about last night was Kinect for Windows…built into Ultrabooks!

Full disclosure: Intel paid for my attendance at the meeting as a speaker. Unfortunately, we didn’t get enough time to run my presentation so I’ve posted it here.

  • Andrew

    That ultrabook with a touchscreen abomination is useless and hideous… And if Asus will design the WHOLE Zenbook Prime 2013 edition for touch, then it will suck.. big time.

  • guy

    Has there been any kind of studies about physical issues with using touch devices in various situations? I’m concerned about having permanent joint pains from prolonged touch interface use.

    Every time I see someone using a tablet while standing up or propped up on a table, it looks very awkward to use with uncomfortable wrist and hand positioning with repeated wrist movements.

    • Chippy

      Hi Guy.
      I haven’t seen any studies on this important topic but I’ve used touch-enabled laptops for a while (many years) and I don’t consider the scenario to be any worse than normal laptop use which, let’s face it, is not exactly a perfect ergonomic solution.

      I’m quite interested in the future of gesture control where a hand doesn’t have to be moved to the screen. There’s a hint or two out there that Microsoft Kinect could be built into Ultrabooks. That level of hand /finger/body recognition will be a huge development that could negate the need for touchscreens altogether.


      • Mitch

        I’m not looking forward to the day when I have to move my entire body to just interact with my PC. I’m not really liking this trend from touch to kinect like then probably some Minority Report like interface.

        Yeah, there are probably some scenarios where these types of interface methods would be more efficient but I don’t think there are very many of them.

        I’ve played with the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect games. They were fun but after the initial excitement faded away it was just too much work.

  • Andrews

    I don’t even like using voice command on my smartphone. Even less using hand, face, body, etc. gestures to control a computer. It looks nice and fancy in TV and movies but in real life, not so much.

  • Shane

    I fail to see how developer conversation around Ultrabooks is useful. Seems to me that this is about Windows 8, and not so much about Ultrabooks. As a developer, I don’t care whether my app will be running on an Ultrabook or not. The decision will be whether to build for Windows, then whether to build for Metro. Developers don’t need to be told what an Ultrabook is. We are usually early tech adopters.

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