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.