Intel Developer Blog: Softtalkblog takes a look under the bonnet of the input-diverse computer

What’s so special about the Ultrabook?

When I first saw an Ultrabook device, I was struck by how great it looked, and by how light it was when I picked it up.

From a developer’s point of view, it’s immediately obvious how the device enables people to do proper computing wherever they go. But the Ultrabook isn’t just about being light. There is much more to it than that.

Although it has a keyboard so you can do real work with it, it also incorporates a lot of sensors that we know from our phones and tablets. The touch screen is the most obvious one, and research shows that people like to switch fluidly between the touch screen, keyboard and mouse, depending on what they’re doing.

That means all apps for Windows 8 should be touch enabled, so that users can use them in whatever way feels intuitive to them at the time. You can’t assume that people will always prefer to carry out a particular action using touch or a keyboard or mouse, so you need to design your applications to give them the choice.

The Ultrabook can also incorporate sensors for GPS, accelerometer, orientation and ambient light, so you can make apps that are location-aware, respond to the user moving the device in different ways, and work both indoors and out.

Mapping has been one of the killer apps on the smartphone and tablet, and the larger screen size of the Ultrabook will make it even more useful, especially once location awareness has been built in.

Apps that include a mapping or location element, such as apps that tell you where your friends have ‘checked-in’, or give you special offers, could well prove to be huge hits on the Ultrabook device.

Another distinguishing feature of the Ultrabook is its battery life, which is designed to be at least six hours. Since the device is designed to be portable, app developers should ensure that their software is as efficient as possible. Power will become a selection criterion, much more so than it was in the days of the laptop or the desktop computer.

The processor in the Ultrabook is also a distinguishing feature: it incorporates a third generation Intel Core processor with Intel Hyper-Threading Technology. That means there’s a lot of power under the hood, but you’ll need to design your apps to use multithreading to take full advantage of the processor’s capabilities. If that’s new to you, you can find resources to help with performance optimisation here.

That processor also incorporates Intel HD Graphics, which provides integrated graphics capabilities for gaming applications. Intel has released a number of software tools and tutorials that you can use to optimise the graphics performance of your games.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on inside an Ultrabook, and people who buy the device (or receive one as a Christmas gift, perhaps if you are lucky) will expect the software they use to enable them to exploit the full potential of the hardware.

Once users get used to the touch screen, an app that doesn’t support it will just feel ‘broken’ to them, when they try to touch it. Apps that sap the battery will undermine the promise of mobility, making users think twice about installing, and could even be a deterrent to downloading if this becomes an issue mentioned in reviews.

The potential for apps on the Ultrabook is virtually unlimited: it brings together the best of the desktop, the laptop, the tablet and the phone in one unit, so you can create apps that can do pretty much anything you can imagine. What new use cases do you envisage for the Ultrabook?

This blog post is written by Softtalkblog, and is sponsored by the Intel Developer Zone, which helps you to develop, market and sell software and apps for prominentplatforms and emerging technologies powered by Intel Architecture.

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