Intel Developer Zone Hangout: New PC Form Factors

Last week, Ultrabook Community Manager Bob Duffy hosted a Google Hangout with Rick Vanner (The Game Creators), Steve “Chippy” Paine (, John Bergquist (Code-Monkeys), and yours truly. Our discussion topic was form factors, hitting on such points as:

-            What are the most innovative developments you see going on in the industry right now?

-            What are some innovations that aren’t happening that you think are needed to happen in order to move forward?

-            What are application and or developer implications?

-            Should developers see the PC as more relevant now?

In this article, I’m going to give a recap of what we talked about in the Hangout. If this sparks a thought with you, let us know in the comments section below!

Shift in the industry

For the past 15 years, PCs have essentially been the same old, same old. However, recently we’ve seen quite a shift in the PC industry with brand new designs that flip, detach and do all sorts of interesting things. Is this good for the industry? Are we increasing fragmentation?

What’s innovative right now?

Laptops were definitely getting to be old hat, but now with all the new designs out there, consumers are having a field day. However, there’s a limit to how many form factors we can flood the market with, there will be a few that really win the day.

Input implications of new designs

All the new form factors are coming out with touch, and touch-based apps are the ones consumers want. Form factors are driving an app-driven ecosystem, and we might be starting to see that the technology is almost ahead of where the consumers are. Manufacturers can’t afford to wait for consumers to catch up, though; it’s definitely a learning stage that will result in both success and failure. They are watching and listening to determine which direction to go next.

What does this mean for developers?

All the form factors are getting thinner and more powerful, which is great for innovation. However, the real problem for developers isn’t form factors, its platforms. Which ones are ones worth spending time and resources on? Does more than one platform equal more monetization?

It used to be much easier to get an app noticed on the charts, nowadays, with how many thousands of apps that are crowding the app stores, it’s near impossible, especially when you’ve got big players controlling the markets. Making an app is the easy part; it’s standing out in the crowd that’s hard.

Where does the industry need to go?

There will never be a “one size fits all” device, which would just serve to stifle innovation and growth.  Everyone has different requirements for their computing devices. The general direction does seem to be more processing power in ever more smaller devices. Mobile and PC devices are essentially merging.

Developers and industry innovation

Developers need to really be watching as form factors continue to evolve, in order to determine the needs of their customer base. It takes a lot of time to build an app, but you’ve also got to build a community around it in order for it to thrive.

Are we heading towards app curation?

How to solve the problem of good apps getting buried? One panelist suggested the idea of app curation, where essentially subject matter experts could cherry-pick the apps that are most suited to their audience, both earning an incentive and putting a highlight on an app that might have otherwise languished sight unseen.  This would serve to grow the app industry even more than it has already, and would benefit developers greatly.

Form factor implications for developers

Developers have the tools they need to focus and thrive. It’s definitely a risk to predict where consumers are going, but it’s worth it. The PC has evolved so much in the last 15 years, and no matter what form factor you might choose, at the end of the day it’s what you’re able to do with it that really matters. 

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