Inspiration: What Ultrabook Developers Can Learn From Elite Athletes

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get enough of watching these athletes compete this summer. I watch my favorite events every night curled up on the couch with my family, I have two different apps on my smartphone pinging me with the latest coverage (spoiler: Michael Phelps is doing quite well for himself), and I listen to detailed analysis by various commentators on my daily commute. You could say I’m a little bit obsessed, and I might agree with you except for one thing: they’re AMAZING, your argument is moot.

We all have our favorite athletes who have become household names: Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Wilma Rudolph, and many more. These are the elite competitors that go beyond being "just" world-class contenders to an even higher plane. They’ve won not one, not two, but several events in a multitude of world championships. They routinely break world records, and they astonish us all with their strength, focus, and sheer persistence. They are the familiar faces of their individual events, the icons that represent everything that their chosen sport stands for.

There’s a lot these world-class athletes can teach us, and no, I’m not just talking about how to rock a swim cap. Sure, most of us will never have the honor of participating in this level of competition, but there’s a lot we can learn from those who do, especially those of us who earn our living in the technology field. Let’s focus on six standouts who personify what people are looking for to make their personal and professional computing lives run a little bit more smoothly.

Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph was dubbed the “fastest woman on earth” in the 1960's, winning several medals in various races. She came from an impoverished background, was the 20th of 22 children, and wore a brace for five years when she was a child as a result of polio. Her accomplishments become even more meaningful when you realize that she lived during a time in U.S. history when she was thought of as a second-class citizen.

Takeaway: Obstacles are going to be there, but there’s a way through them. We need apps and devices that make our jobs easier, not more difficult.

Nadia Comaneci
Video courtesy of comaneci1 via YouTube

Nadia is the first gymnast to ever score a perfect “10” in a competitive event, displaying astonishing athleticism, poise, and focus on the uneven bars. Before Nadia, there had literally never been a perfect gymnastic performance before – and in fact, the scoreboard was unable to show her four-digit (10.00) score since no one had ever thought such a feat was even possible. By the way, Nadia was only 14 when she accomplished this.

Takeaway: The Ultrabook development landscape is a relatively new market with a potentially huge audience. People are going to need apps and devices that work perfectly from day one, and they are going to expect perfection. Instead of a hindrance, that expectation should be something to spur developers on to even greater accomplishments.

Dara Torres
Dara Torres won twelve medals in swimming over the course of five different worldwide competitions. She was 41 when she earned her highest accolades, making her the first woman in history to swim in competition past the age of 40. Her achievement is even more remarkable when you consider that she had given birth to a daughter only 15 months before setting this record.

Takeaway: The old adage “age is just a number” applies not only to swimming but to the Ultrabook development space as well. Traditional marketing studies show that early adapters are typically in the younger age range, but it’s important to keep in mind the folks on the other side of the spectrum who might have different computing needs and are more apt to download apps that serve a definitive purpose and help them streamline their workflow more effectively.

Michael Phelps
Video courtesy of Washington Post via YouTube

At the time of this writing, swimmer Michael Phelps has just earned his 22nd medal, making him the most decorated swimmer in the history of the sport. He also holds the record for the most gold medals, and has broken several world records.

Takeaway: This platform is pushing the envelope in PC form factor, and we need you to do that as well. Exceed expectations when developing apps for Ultrabook users. We need tools that will blow us away over and over again with how intuitive and innovative they are.

Greg Louganis

Considered to be one of the best divers of all time, Greg Louganis won four gold medals and one silver medal in three different worldwide competitions. At a 1988 contest, Louganis suffered a concussion in the preliminary diving rounds. However, he still went on to finish the qualifying events and placed first, earning two gold medals in spite of his injury.

Takeaway: There are some pundits who believe that the Ultrabook’s touch and sensor capabilities are not going to appeal to everyone, and in fact, might turn away a large portion of the market that isn’t up for all these newfangled whiz bangs. These are the same pundits who thought that the mouse, the GUI, or the Internet wouldn’t catch on, either. Be persistent and develop something that appeals to both early and later adapters. It will pay off.

Dan Jansen
Video courtesy Team USA via YouTube

Speed skater Dan Jansen might not have the long list of accolades that the rest of these athletes can boast, but his one gold medal is all the more sweeter for the years of struggle and heartache behind it. In 1988, Jansen’s sister died in the middle of his competition, and although he did finish his races, he was unable to medal. In 1992, Jansen was dubbed a favorite by many racing pundits, but he was unable to place in any of his competitions. In 1994, his fourth try, he finally placed first and won gold, dedicating his achievement to his sister, Jane.

Takeaway: Everyone has hurdles to overcome, and some take longer than others. The Ultrabook’s features – fast boot-up, longer battery, touch sensors, etc. – are the solutions to problems that have been worked on for years. People are eager to see how they will perform, especially those of us who have been waiting for a system that solves many of the computing issues that have been problematic in the PC world. Create a compelling, intuitive experience and your audience will root for you.

These athletes and others like them are a great source for inspiration, aren’t they? Years of practice and hard work got them to where they are, and they motivate us to push on through our own obstacles to win the reward. Have these achievements inspired you? Do you have a favorite athlete that has encouraged you in some way? Let us know in the comments below.

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