Fly on the Wall: What Developers Are Talking About

Recently, a team of developers from Soma Games got together and gave us a rare look into the minds of ISVs as they look at the Ultrabook and how to target various features for both new and existing applications. In addition to Ultrabook features, the group also talked about the viability of keyboards, the true nature of an Ultrabook, and what constitutes truly great game design. If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall for great discussions on technology and where technology is going through the eyes of a developer, now’s your chance.

So what is an Ultrabook, anyway?

The first discussion centered on the true definition of an Ultrabook. We know the technical specifications of what makes up an Ultrabook; in fact, if you go to the official Intel Ultrabook community website (http://software.intel.com/en-us/ultrabook/), you’ll learn more than you might have ever wanted to about these devices. But putting aside what the technical side of the equation, what really makes up an Ultrabook? Is it what’s on the label, or is it what consumers are looking for as far as performance and that ever elusive “wow!” factor?

The words “solid state”, “accelerometer”, “Ivy Bridge”, etc. are familiar to those of us who are in the know. However, not all consumers are necessarily familiar with those particular terms. They simply want a machine that will do what they need it to do, and they’d like it to do it better than anything else out there. They might see someone with an Ultrabook that is accomplishing all that they are doing (or more) with their bulky notebook, and the conversation might start from there about concepts that are fundamentally technical in nature but not necessarily in concept. Basically, the Ultrabook definitely has that already mentioned “wow” factor simply by the nature of its moniker, and it’s really on the developer community at this point to capitalize on that framework, building awesome apps that integrate all the features of this device.

Keyboard, touchscreen: different strokes for different folks

The second discussion was about the somewhat controversial subject of “do we really still need a keyboard?” Is the keyboard absolutely essential anymore? One point of view postulated that the keyboard is the albatross of computing, the other points of view held to the more moderate opinion of the keyboard being necessary to true productivity. For such an innocuous looking device, the keyboard sure seems to stir up some strong opinions.

The Ultrabook’s upcoming touchscreen is obviously a big step forward. But does that mean that the keyboard is now an antique? Nothing could be further from the truth. The keyboard provides a level of productivity that you just can’t do without. Sure, for many applications a keyboard isn’t strictly necessary, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

From the group’s point of view, the biggest current problem in computing is the interface: in other words, “stuff” getting in the way of what we want to do, the way we want to do it. It’s very natural for us to go from the keyboard to touch and back again, and we’re going to see that happening more often as touch becomes more of a standard feature. Touch is just in its earliest stages of development right now, and ergonomically there is a lot to consider. But again, just because there’s a new input method in town doesn’t mean that the old one isn’t any less valuable.

 “Bullet point developer”

One of the most interesting conversations centered on the phrase “bullet point developer”; basically, this is putting in features just to satisfy the bullet points on the back of the package. They don’t necessarily add any value, but by golly, you’ve got those bullet points checked off! Pointless additions that don’t add anything to an application just to say there’s something “extra” are what developers want to avoid when developing apps for the Ultrabook.

Good developer perspective means looking forward to what is possible. Shoe-horning in technology where it doesn’t quite fit makes software less viable for the long run, and consumers will pick up on that.

A good discussion

So there you have it, folks! It’s always fascinating to get the “inside look” at what cutting-edge people in any field are thinking, isn’t it? What did you think of this discussion? For example, what does the phrase “Ultrabook” bring to mind for you? What do you think of the keyboard vs. touch debate? And what do you think of “bullet point developers”? Let us know in the comments. 

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