|We're past hump week, if such a thing were actually possible in this challenge[^], and we're starting to see the applications come to life. Overall the contestants' apps are coming together and they guys are focusing more on showcasing the Ultrabook and Windows 8 API than merely grinding out the framework code for their application. The contest has gone from "how am I going to get this done" to "how can I make it rock their socks?", and has expanded to more philosophical and design discussions on the nature of the Ultrabook and what it means for user interaction.
Lee is powering ahead. As a reminder he is working on an application that combines social messaging with random pot-luck. His OpenGL-to-DirectX 11 translation engine is working. He has NFC happening (after a little device foreplay - really, too much information) as well as a bunch of other Ultrabook specific support that is truly keeping with the spirit of showing off the Ultrabook hardware and Windows 8 API. Check out his videos if you like a little time-lapse craziness.
George and Suresh at Blue innovations look like they're close to being done with their MoneyBags 2.0. They are, methodically, working through their list of Ultrabook features they wish to support (I think it''s all of them, at last check) and have gone as far as to provide an eBook detailing their progress and their earned wisdom. Grab yourself a copy of A Simple Guide to Ultrabook Development. An important UI issue these lads have discussed is ease of use of the touchscreen. Grab a tablet or iPad and think about how easy it is to reach various parts of the screen. On a 3.5" screen it's all accessible. On a 7" the centre bits take a little wiggling. On a 13" touchscreen laptop there are definitely parts of a screen that are easier to hit than others and an application's design should take this into account. Their use of hidden menus, though, would draw a serious, horizontal-brow'd frown from Jakob Nielson. Don't make your application an adventure game. It should all be obvious.
Shailesh has discussed something none of the others have: Windows 8 app certification requirements. Sure, a little boring, but kinda critical. They made huge progress on this front, raising their app's overall assessment from "Critical issues found" to "undefined". No news is good news.
John and Gavin are also in a great personal space. They are feature complete. Complete with bugs and with optimisations to be done, but complete. They mirror comments made by others that hover is dead. Anyone who's written an app or a website optimised for touch knows that you don't have a mouse or cursor. Unless you insist on stylus based devices, you crazy cat, you. Touchscreens may, in future, have the ability to detect your finger from a centimetre away and provide hover events, but for the moment it's binary: you're touching or you're not.
Sagar loves a little drama and did what any red blooded developer would do when given a pre-release piece of hardware running a pre-release OS with pre-release drivers: he tried upgrading to RTM bits. You can picture how that went. Regardless, their Shufflr video sampler application is fully bean-bag enabled using the inclination and accelerometers. Quick tilt-and-back to flip to the next video. Tilt-and-hold to scan through a video. Very nice.
Andrea is continuing to work on his language trainer. It's coming along, but as I've said in previous posts: I'd like to see something that more fully showcases the Ultrabook. At the very least a discussion on the ins-and-outs of developing touch screen UIs for web applications would be valuable.
Overall, we're close. The Intel Developer Forum is next week so contestants will have a week off to booze, I mean, discuss strategy with peers in informal round-tables, so there will be a break in the regular scheduling.
Initially I thought my vote for the top app was sewn up early. However, as we see how the contestant think, and how they approach the application development process, I'm now torn in 3 different directions. Pushing the boundary hard and far always gets point from me, but sitting down and methodically working through the issues to produce an app that makes sense, rather than on;y being a showcase, shows a deeper commitment to me.
We only have two more weeks for each to finalise their offerings. This will be interesting.
The Code Project | Co-founder
Microsoft C++ MVP