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Ultrabook: Behind How Intel is Remaking Mobile Computing

How Are Ultrabooks Changing?

Even if you think that Ultrabook is just a fancy name for trends that were already happening within the notebook industry, you have to acknowledge that the notebook market has evolved inordinately quickly in the last three years. Compare that transformation with the changes from 2007 to 2010 or from 2004 to 2007. According to Intel, there are now 18x more laptops with a z-height of less than one inch than there were prior to Ultrabook’s arrival, and the average z-height of all laptops has decreased from 35 mm to 25 mm in that time.

The cool thing about platform initiatives like Ultrabook is that their tide tends to lift all boats. AMD did this with Fusion, APU design, and OpenCL. Intel did it previously with Centrino and Wi-Fi. Now that Intel is more confident with how to move the market in the right way and at a proper pace (RDRAM remains an outstanding example of how not to do this), the entire industry stands to benefit. The average laptop will deliver better features, not just higher speeds at lower prices. Convertible design, thinness, and battery life are examples of design principles spilling beyond the Ultrabook badge. Most likely, perceptual computing in notebooks will be another.

“Longer term, we’re working on bringing 3D facial and gesture recognition to the PC platform,” says DeLine. “I know Kinect is out there with the 10-foot experience. But Kinect can only determine if your hand is up or down or sideways. At the two-foot experience, it can recognize all ten fingers, your wrists, your elbows. There’s a lot more granularity. For 2013, we’d like the ISV community to start dinking around with this stuff and see what they can come up with using clip-on cameras. Then, in 2014, we start the integration work, so by the time you get to 2015, we see a world where gestures and voice and touch are all integrated together. At that point, you can say that your interaction with the PC has been fundamentally reinvented compared to the PC of 2010.”

DeLine’s point about ISVs harkens to work already well under way via Intel’s Perceptual Computing SDK. (Perceptual computing revolves around the concept of making human/computer interaction more natural through the use of system sensors.) If you’ve shown interest in the camera capabilities of the forthcoming Xbox One, be aware that Intel has for many months been working to develop and advance the perceptual computing community. In the recently run Intel Ultimate Coder Challenge, Intel supplied top developer participants with Ultrabooks and stereoscopic Creative gesture cameras. The results from all participants were incredible, and I’d encourage you to peek through Intel’s blog for an inkling of what lies around the bend. Not surprisingly, Ultrabooks were used by all participants during development.