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 engage with those devices and the applications that run on them.
So when Intel formalized the specification for Ultrabook™ devices and models began to appear, developers could be forgiven for letting out a pained moan of “oh no, not another one!” We have seen notebooks, netbooks, endless smartphones configurations and most recently the second generation of tablet devices. These have of course been hugely popular with consumers, so the questions have to be asked - Is there room for the Ultrabook system? What need is it addressing? And finally, what does it mean for developers?
The end-user expectations of PCs are rising. People want their PCs to be always on, always connected, have ease of software delivery, be thin, have longer battery life for a better user experience, high performance, and responsive. 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. That said, tablets have also introduced some great features that support some of these use cases with longer battery life and touch capabilities in order to provide a more enriched experience. Some peopel find however that the experience on a tablet doesn't meet their computing needs due to small screen sizes, lack of keyboard and limited local storage. For those people a tablet is best used a companion device in addition to a laptop or desktop. For years people have moved away from their desks and have become much more mobile, and that meant products that were thin and light. However, this came at a price, which was usually performance and battery life or a very high cost. At the other end of the portable scale there are laptops, which for some are simply too big, and pack too much power and performance for some people's needs.
Announced in June 2011 at Computex, the Ultrabook device specification and roadmap changes made to the Intel® Core™ processors are enabling this new breed of devices. Ultrabook systems marry thin and light with the best in performance, responsiveness, security and battery life – filling the gap between desktop/laptop and tablet. We are reinventing the PC again. An Ultrabook device is ultra-responsive and ultra-sleek.
The new specification means significant changes to the hardware that goes inside these new portable devices, and as a result Ultrabooks systems 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 with responsive technologies.
- Phase two will benefit from the next generation Intel microarchitecture code named 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. Faster I/O such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt™ technology are also part of Intel's next generation Intel microarchitecture.
- Finally, Intel microarchitecture code name Haswell, will deliver the final phase of the Ultrabook category with even more power-efficient processors, lowering the thermal design point to half that of today's processors. It will also provide better performance and security as well.
Ultrabook devices are already available and many predict continued moentum as the category gorws. Devices already shipping are a maximum of 21mm thick and have battery life of at least five hours even in the slimmest devices. Also with a fast wake time, productivity and entertainment is increased.
To ship Ultrabook devices this year required significant collaboration across the entire computing industry. Intel has worked very closely with its customers to ensure that Ultrabook devices deliver compelling and unique value to consumers. Take a look at what's available now here: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ultrabook/shop-ultrabook.html
There are a number of key technologies that enhance performance, responsiveness, security, and power on Ultrabook devices:
- Intel® Quick Sync Video - Makes faster work of creating, editing, and sharing videos
- Intel® Wireless Display - To enjoy streaming and 3D content wirelessly
- Intel® InTruTM 3D - To get the ultimate, full HD stereo and 3D visual experience
- Intel® Insider - To unlock a world of premium, full HD movies on your Ultrabook system
- Intel® Clear Video HD Technology - To get a intense visual experience with sharper, smoother, and richer images
- Intel® HD Graphics - Gives you awesome performance for gaming and media without the need for a graphics card.
- Fast start-up - In addition to supporting third-party solutions, Intel is developing and bringing to market capabilities that improve the appeal of Ultrabook designs. For example, Intel® Rapid Start Technology gets your system up and running faster from even the deepest sleep, saving time and battery life. The system wakes up almost instantly and gives users quick access to their data and applications.
- Intel® Anti-Theft Technology - This smart security hardware helps protect data by disabling a lost or stolen Ultrabook system from anywhere in the world. And when the Ultrabook device 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.
- Ultra-low voltage Intel® processors
Intel has made a $300 million investment in 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 devices™, achieving all-day usage through longer battery life, enabling innovative physical designs and improved 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 strong 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. Intel Capital has been instrumental in making efforts such as Ultrabook viable.
But it's not just about money from Intel. There is genuine excitement in the industry about this new category, and that is a huge opportunity for developers to update existing applications with new features and build entirely new applications that will take advantage of the features discussed above, and others forthcoming like Near Field Communications. For example, Intel and MasterCard recently announced a strategic collaboration to further enhance the security and consumer payment experience for online shopping.
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, one of the best places to do this is Intel's free Intel Software Partner Program (ISPP). Members get access to software tools and resources covering every aspect in Intel technology to help with the development of their applications. You can learn more about the program at http://software.intel.com
 Ultrabook is a trademark of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.
 Thunderbolt is a trademark of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Shirley Chen is a Technical Marketing Engineer who works with stakeholders across teams to deliver technical disclosures, training, and demos for various industry events in support of platform launch marketing efforts. She also writes technical briefs, white papers featured on the Intel Software Network community to reach many scale developers.