Optimizing the Cost-Effectiveness of Software Development for Ultrabooks™

Software makers worldwide are building product roadmaps that target Ultrabook™ devices, and they are looking for the most cost-effective means possible of doing so. These initiatives make obvious business sense, since industry analysts predict shipments of 170 million Ultrabooks worldwide by 2017, an eightfold increase from 2012.1 Ultrabooks offer a wealth of new usage models that translate to opportunities for software innovation, from touch enablement to using input from various sensors. Using those capabilities effectively can differentiate applications in their market segments, but controlling costs is necessary for software makers to realize business success.

Developing for Ultrabooks does not require large-scale changes to the development process, which can proceed in most cases with existing programming languages, tools, and personnel. Substantial resources are available to help minimize the development cost and effort to enable both new and existing applications to target Ultrabooks. As of late 2012, Intel has made investments totaling US$300 million to help move the ecosystem forward, benefiting the industry as a whole. Taking wise advantage of these resources helps software makers efficiently position themselves to benefit from Ultrabook adoption worldwide.

This article is intended to help strategists at software companies in both the business and consumer markets develop software cost-effectively for Ultrabook systems and other mobile devices. It is part of a series of papers that explore key considerations in taking advantage of the Ultrabook market segment with software:

Helping Reduce the Cost of Development for Ultrabooks

The first challenge in building software for Ultrabooks is to minimize the time and costs associated with ramping up the development effort. In fact, developing for Ultrabooks requires only a few additions to existing code; the primary features and capabilities that developers need to be aware of are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Primary features and capabilities of Ultrabook devices that impact software development.

Support for touch interfaces is a key benefit of Ultrabooks to enhance the user experience, and touch interfaces are supported on both the new Windows* 8 UI and the traditional desktop UI. Various sensors that are supported by Ultrabook systems, ultimately to include a compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, and light sensor, provide additional opportunities to extend existing user experiences and to create new ones.

A rich universe of training and other technical materials is available to accelerate the process of acquainting software developers and other members of product development teams with the development concepts and techniques associated with these hardware features. The Intel® Developer Zone Ultrabook Community is a core resource in this area, with technical resources such as tools, downloads, blogs, forums, and demos that help developers rapidly build the expertise that drives efficient development.

As soon as a decision maker at a software company decides to target Ultrabooks as part of the company’s development strategy, he or she should consider tasking members of the development team to research relevant topics. Creating a reading list specific to the company’s needs and assigning a small but regular time commitment for every member to read from it (as little as 20-30 minutes per day) can swiftly increase overall developer awareness of the opportunity associated with Ultrabooks and the actions that are needed to capitalize on it. The following resources are a solid starting point for that effort:

Existing Tools and Development Environments Are Ultrabook-Ready

Software development for Ultrabooks uses the same core environment as most software organizations use to build Windows applications for other hardware. Expanding the development effort to include Ultrabooks therefore takes advantage of existing tool investments, expertise, and development practices. This is an advantage for development shops, which can begin their approach to the Ultrabook market by enabling existing applications for touch and other Ultrabook capabilities.

No actual porting is necessarily required for existing Windows applications. Instead, some degree of enablement is the most common goal for software makers, helping them target a competitive advantage for their applications in the Ultrabook segment. A robust assortment of tools is available to extend existing development environments or to establish new ones at little or no cost, making software development for Ultrabooks as efficient as possible.

Setting Development Priorities for Ultrabook-Oriented Software Features

An important aspect of optimizing cost-effectiveness of software development for Ultrabooks is to incorporate the capabilities that will drive adoption of the application by Ultrabook users into the broader development effort. Decision makers must prioritize development work that will produce the most benefit for the least effort, while also creating a long-term roadmap that will incorporate the full range of Ultrabook-focused capabilities.

For example, a hypothetical product manager might determine that a variety of optimizations could contribute to the competitiveness of her product in the Ultrabook market segment. Because each of these development efforts will take time and effort, she recognizes that she will need to prioritize them across upcoming product versions. Depending on the nature of the application, the list of those development efforts could include product features based on Ultrabook capabilities such as the following:

  • Rethinking the user experience should begin with determining which use cases will be redesigned or simplified using touch and/or sensors.
  • Incorporating input from sensors such as the accelerometer, gyrometer, compass, and ambient light sensor can support usage models beyond what is possible using traditional user interactions.
  • Intel® Wireless Display (Intel® WiDi) enablement enables applications to stream display from the Ultrabook to an HDTV device.
  • Optimization for impact on battery life can be a significant selling point for applications that target the highly mobile population of Ultrabook users.

Based on this list of Ultrabook capabilities, application-specific features and capabilities can be identified and prioritized. A robust approach to determining which features to enable first must consider a number of factors that contribute to both the requirements for each enablement activity and the benefits it offers to the application. Careful analysis of these factors can help reduce development costs, both in an absolute sense and relative to increased product quality and competitiveness. The characteristics of the development effort and its outcome will vary for specific development efforts, but the lists in Table 1 will be generally applicable in most cases.

Table 1. Foundational factors in prioritizing enablement tasks for Ultrabooks.

Sample Factors that
Contribute to Resource Requirements
Sample Factors that
Contribute to Product Benefits
  • How complex is the enablement effort associated with the feature?
  • How familiar is the product team with the required development tasks?
  • How much can development efficiency be enhanced by SDKs and other tools?
  • How valuable is the feature for expanding usage models?
  • How valuable will the feature be perceived by users?
  • How much does the feature contribute to competitive differentiation?

Product architects and development teams should hold design sessions to investigate how various Ultrabook capabilities enable potential application features. Each feature should be analyzed according to factors such as those in Table 1 as one means of prioritizing development tasks.

After consulting with development managers and their teams, it should be possible to assign numeric rankings to each of the requirement and benefit factors, according to how positively they contribute to the argument for developing that application feature. Totaling the figures for each feature will provide a score that can be considered when planning future development.

Lowering the Costs of Bringing Ultrabook Applications to Market

A cost-effective, fast means of extending Ultrabook applications into the marketplace is an important requirement for lowering the cost of the overall product development cycle, including the cost per unit of marketing and selling the product. A number of programs and other resources are available to software companies as they target the Ultrabook market segment.

Some of the most valuable of these opportunities are to become an Intel® Software Partner and to market software through the Intel AppUp® Center and the Microsoft Windows Store. Each of these opportunities can help software makers reduce distribution and related costs, as described below.

Get Free Marketing Resources for Your Products as an Intel Software Partner

Status as an Intel Software Partner provides software companies with a variety of marketing resources, including visibility on Intel web sites, that can reduce the effort and cost associated with the post-development portion of the product cycle. As a no-cost venue for Intel Software Partners to list their Ultrabook applications, the Intel Developer Zone Software Finder can help software makers lower the costs associated with marketing to thousands of potential buyers. Another marketing resource available to Intel Software Partners, Collateral Builder, provides a library of templates, images, and messaging designed to streamline the creation of collateral such as flyers, direct mail pieces, web banners, and white papers.

For more information, visit the Intel® DZ Intel Software Partners page.

Simplify Selling Applications and Components with the Intel AppUp Center

Intel AppUp Center is a simple, high-visibility means of distributing Ultrabook applications that can help further reduce the cost of the sales cycle for software makers. No day-to-day involvement from the software company is required to maintain this sales venue once the application is submitted and approved, reducing the burden on company resources in terms of cost and effort to keep Ultrabook applications actively in the market. That frees those resources up to focus on other opportunities. Individual software components can also be sold through the Intel AppUp center. For more information, visit the Intel® DZ Intel AppUp® Developers page.

Take Advantage of a Ready-Made Opportunity with the Microsoft Windows Store

Another low-cost approach to distributing Ultrabook applications is through the Windows Store, an upcoming online distribution point for software built for both the new Windows 8 UI and the traditional desktop UI. Because consumers will know that Microsoft vets all software offered through the store for quality and security, software sold through this venue carries an added measure of trust, in addition to the deep, worldwide reach of Microsoft’s web presence.

Microsoft makes a significant body of material available to developers related to developing applications for distribution through the Windows Store. For more information, visit the Windows Store Dev Center.

Consider how Methodologies Such as Agile Development Can Improve Your Process

Adding touch and sensor features enables a broader vision for how an application can be used and what it can accomplish. Looking holistically at the application is a prerequisite for identifying the total opportunity for new user experiences. Involving a broadly based team is beneficial, including roles such as users, machine-human interaction experts, and sales or marketing representatives. The resulting collaborative approach can make the development effort more successful, and it also positions the process to adopt agile development methodologies such as scrum, which can help reduce the overall costs of bringing a product to market.

For more information on the potential cost benefits of agile methodologies, see the presentation by Srini Kumar, “Reducing Costs Using Agile.”

Development Resources that Help Build a Competitive Advantage

Software makers have a lot to gain from the free-of-charge resources available through the Intel® DZ Ultrabook Community. Extend the expertise of your development team to include best practices, tools, and techniques for the Ultrabook category.

Quickly grasping the new opportunities and implementing the skill sets required to take advantage of them helps make applications early to market so they can start building market segment share as soon as possible. A few resources from the community that may prove especially beneficial in driving excitement around your software offerings for Ultrabook devices include the following:

Conclusion

Extending software development to include features and capabilities that specifically target Ultrabooks adds only incrementally to the cost of the overall development process. A wealth of resources, tools, and programs are available to reduce that cost even further. From the beginning of an initiative to incorporate Ultrabooks into an application’s scope of target devices, developers can access extensive technical materials that give insights and techniques to make the required changes cost-effectively and efficiently. Development tools are available from Intel, Microsoft, and others that help optimize developer productivity, helping contain costs further.

Identifying and prioritizing Ultrabook-focused features within the overall development life cycle helps optimize return on investments made during the development process. And once an application is ready to go to market, Intel and Microsoft help cut marketing costs, getting the latest Ultrabook software into the hands of as many users as possible, with the cost efficiency software makers need to take full advantage of the Ultrabook opportunity.

Go set the world on fire:

www.intel.com/ultrabook

About the Author

Matt Gillespie is an independent technology and business writer with a specialty in illuminating the real-world value of emerging hardware and software technologies, mostly working for the microprocessor industry. His previous work experience includes hands-on network IT at California Federal Bank, research writing at the University of California, Davis Center for Neuroscience, and equities writing at Morningstar Inc., the Chicago financial publisher. Matt studied physics and sculpture but eventually received a degree in English from the University of Illinois. You can reach him at spanningtree-at-comcast-dot-net.

1 ABI Research, “Netbooks, Smartbooks & Ultrabooks.” September 10, 2012.

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