In recent years developers have had to completely rethink the way that applications are built. Not so much because of operating system changes, or even updates to underlying chipsets, but devices themselves have become extremely diverse. There are now more base devices than you can shake a stick at, as the saying goes, but there have been other changes such as touch screens and gesturing, that have changed the way we work with those devices and the applications that run on them.
So when Intel® formalized the specifications for the new Ultrabooks™ and devices began to appear, some developers questioned the need. The original era of tablets was disappointing and since then we have seen notebooks, netbooks, endless smartphone configurations – and most recently the second generation of tablet devices. These have of course been hugely popular with consumers, so the question has to be asked - is there room for the Ultrabook™? What need is it addressing? And finally, what does it mean for developers?
Why do we need the Ultrabook?
The PC continues to dominate most use cases for personal computing in the home and office including internet shopping, editing documents, e-mail, watching movies and downloading other content. Tablets have introduced some great features that support some of these scenarios, but screens are still small, local storage is generally miniscule and restrictive compared to that of a traditional PC. For years the focus of the technology has been to get users away from their desk and making them mobile, and that meant thin and light. However, this came at a price, usually performance and battery life. At the other end of the portable scale we have laptops, which for many are just too big, and place power and performance above user experience, which both hardware and software play a part in.
A new specification to fill the gap
Announced in June 2011 at Computex, the Ultrabook™ specification and roadmap changes to the Intel® Core™ processors enable this new breed of devices. Ultrabooks™ marry thin and light with the best in performance, responsiveness, security and battery life – filling the gap between desktop/laptop and tablet.
The new specification means significant changes to the hardware that goes inside these new portable devices, resulting in Ultrabooks™ that will appear over three phases, with phase one already available. In the most basic terms the three phases are as follows:
- Phase one started when Intel introduced the latest Ultra-Low Voltage 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processors.
- Phase two will benefit from the next generation Intel microarchitecture codename Ivy Bridge processors. These are scheduled for availability in the first half of 2012. Devices using these processors will benefit from even better power efficiency, smart visual performance, increased responsiveness and enhanced security.
- Finally, Intel microarchitecture codename ‘Haswell’, will deliver phase three of the Ultrabook™ story with even more power-efficient processors, lowering the thermal design point to half that of today’s processors.
Ultrabooks™ are already available and analyst firm IHS iSuppli* (November 2011) predicts that they will be one million units of Global PC notebook shipments for 2011, rising to 136.5 million by 2015, accounting for more than 40% of total notebook shipments. Devices already shipping are a maximum of 21mm thick and have battery life of five hours even in the slimmest devices. Some Ultrabooks™ are already demonstrating more than eight hours battery life, meaning they could potentially be used for a typical working day on a single charge, depending on their workloads.
To ship Ultrabook™ devices this year required significant collaboration amongst the entire computing industry. Intel has worked very closely with its customers to ensure that Ultrabook™ devices deliver compelling and unique value to consumers.
While the processors themselves play a huge role in delivering better battery life, there are a number of other key device technologies that enhance performance, responsiveness and security on Ultrabooks™:
- Intel® Rapid Start Technology - Returns an Ultrabook™ to full operational power within seconds, so a user can jump right back into everything they were doing. This ultra-responsive capability not only restores power in an instant, it also ensures ultra-low power consumption when on standby.
- Intel® Smart Response Technology – This quickly recognizes and stores the most frequently used files and applications on an Ultrabook™ and puts them where they can be accessed right away.
- Intel® Smart Connect Technology – This keeps a user’s email, favorite apps, and social networks continually and automatically updated even when the system is asleep.
- Intel® Anti-Theft (Intel® AT) Technology - This smart security hardware helps protect data by disabling a lost or stolen Ultrabook™ from anywhere in the world. And when the Ultrabook™ is returned to its owner, it can be easily reactivated without harm to the data or digital content.
- Intel® Identity Protection Technology – This technology helps protect a user’s identity and assets online by adding a trusted link to their system, accounts, and favourite online places. It’s online identity protection, which is authenticated by the user.
So what does it all mean for developers?
Intel has made a significant $300 million investment in what it calls the Intel Capital Ultrabook™ Fund. This new fund aims to invest in companies building hardware and software technologies focused on enhancing how people interact with Ultrabooks™, achieving all-day usage through longer battery life, enabling innovative physical designs and improving storage capacity. The overall goal of the fund, which will be invested over the next 3-4 years, is to create a cycle of innovation and system capabilities for this new and growing category of mobile devices.
Intel Capital has a proven track record of driving innovation and growth in computing through dedicated and consistent investments in start-ups and companies at the cutting edge of technology innovation worldwide. By employing Intel’s core assets of architecture, engineering and manufacturing leadership along with capital investment, Intel Capital has helped to create the technology ecosystems which underlie many of the most widespread applications of technology today.
But it’s not just about money from Intel. There is genuine excitement in the industry about this new category, and with expected sales volumes amounting to 42% of notebook shipments, there is a huge opportunity for developers to update applications with new features and build new applications that will take advantage of some of the features discussed above, and others like Near Field Communications. Intel and MasterCard recently announced a strategic collaboration to combine MasterCard’s PayPass payment system with the Intel® Identity Protection Technology outlined above. This will allow contactless payments to be made through Ultrabooks™!
For those individual developers and ISVs that want to take advantage of this new category of devices and learn how to use the new features of the 2nd Generation Intel Core processors, we encourage you to join the free Intel® Software Partner Program. Members get access to software tools and resources to help with the development of their applications. You can learn more about the program here and more about ultrabooks here.
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*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.
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© 2011, Intel Corporation. All rights reserved. Intel, the Intel logo, Intel Core, Intel vPro, Intel Xeon, Core vPro inside, and Xeon inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.
Intel® Anti-Theft Technology (Intel® AT)
No system can provide absolute security under all conditions. Requires an enabled chipset, BIOS, firmware and software, and a subscription with a capable Service Provider. Consult your system manufacturer and Service Provider for availability and functionality. Intel assumes no liability for lost or stolen data and/or systems or any other damages resulting thereof. For more information, visit http://www.intel.com/go/anti-theft.
And Intel® Identity Protection Technology:
No system can provide absolute security under all conditions. Requires an Intel® Identity Protection Technology-enabled system, including a 2nd gen Intel® Core™ processor enabled chipset, firmware and software, and participating website. Consult your system manufacturer. Intel assumes no liability for lost or stolen data and/or systems or any resulting damages. For more information, visit http://ipt.intel.com.