The six teams competing in the Ultimate Coder Ultrabook Challenge have one more day to go. On the 28th September they must submit their final code to Intel. In the following week I will be testing and scoring with the other judges and on October 8th we’re going to see who’s won $10K.
Yes this is a promotional activity by Intel, but it’s one of the most interesting and educational I’ve ever been involved in. We’ve all learnt a lot and a useful trail of posts has been left by the contestants for anyone thinking about creating an Ultrabook-focused version of their Windows 8 application for either desktop or Windows 8 Store. You can find all of the posts, plus my commentary, here.
So on to the final week. Was it all about bug-fixing? Did anyone have to drop features? Read-on
Shufflr used the last week to push out an additional feature – Always On, Always Connected (AOAC / Connected Standby) and push. [Sidenote: I’m still confused by AOAC. My understanding is that a platform has to conform to certain parameters to be able to use Connected Standby. I think some teams are referring to AOAC when they are really talking about Intel Smart Connect – which is not an ‘always on’ mode.] They say they’ve achieved it though so of course I’ll be interested to check this out. Like them though, my Smart Connect driver doesn’t install on my Ultrabook at the moment so I’ll be looking for the fix that Shufflr used. Full update here.
Lee Bamber of The Game Creators needs to sleep a little more although I totally understand the head-down coders mindset that can see 5, 10, 15-hours going by without realising it. Lee has worked on in-app purchasing, a critical part of any commercial app that starts with a free version…unless you win $10K. Note that the internal currency is Microsoft Points. I’ve never liked that because you’re always made to convert in your head…or just move on and that’s what I’ve always done on Xbox. I’ve never, ever, bought Microsoft points currency.
In his post (long!) you’ll also find out about how Lee integrated with social networks, another very important part of any application. One should never leave out the chance for some viral marketing. The overview of app makes it easy to see who the target audience is and I’ll be asking my 11-year old daughter to check this out and give me feedback. I spoke to Lee about the Windows Metro/Store sharing subsystem at IDF and he’s written about it this week. The feature would duplicate the built-in sharing he has in his app. Was that an oversight to be building new social media interfaces when Windows 8 already has it built-in? Sharing is a feature i’m using a lot under Windows 8 and i’m hoping it takes-off in a big way. [Please Microsoft, can you get Google Plus sharing working in Windows 8?] More, lots more, from Lee in his final update here.
Andreas Breitschopp kept his scope fairly limited through the competition but let’s not forget that he’s a singleton, the only one-man-band in this competition. In his last post he highlights an extremely important point and something that developers will 100% concur with. While you might be writing with a ‘portable’ language, there’s a lot of work that needs to go into tailoring for every platform that you deploy on. Not only are there additional features that can be used (power, sensors, touch on an the Ultrabooks we’re using) but there is always work to be done in taking advantage of screen space, orientation, input methods and use cases. How long until developers write about a ‘fragmented’ Windows 8 ecosystem? As always, the decision to code for a platform must be based on time and potential audience though and no-one can deny that Windows 8 is going to have one of the biggest potential audiences in the market in just a few years. [My thoughts drift to Windows 8 Phone too….] You can read Andreas’ final post here.
Blue Innovations, oh, Blue Innovations. If there were a prize for words written…! I want to start by making a comment on the choice made by Blue Innovations to take a relatively boring subject and trying make a sensor-and-social enabled app out of it. That was never going to be easy but look what they’ve written about first this week – NFC. It’s the sensible side of sensors and fits perfectly. I’ve got an NFC-enabled phone here so if it works (Nokia <> Microsoft?) it will be the first time I’ve ever used it.
Licensing is something we haven’t talked about at all until now. Why not? Is this something you don’t need when creating a free app and using the in-app purchasing model in Windows 8 store? Blue Innovations are using a ‘free trial’ model and don’t forget this is a desktop app, not a Windows 8 Store app so they’re managing all this security and finance themselves. They’re also having to handle automatic updates, something you take for granted with the app-store model.
I’m really pleased to see that Money Bags is not an Ultrabook-only app. While an Ultrabook is mobile, it’s not the device you want to pull out at the cashier just to add an entry. Money Bags has a series of external input and sync mechanisms although some of them are fairly generic. Clearly a mobile app would be better. Finally, a personal congratulations on the launch of Ultrabook Labs which I’ll write about in a separate post here on UltrabookNews soon. Full week 6 update here.
WUF WUF! Soma Games have finished Wind Up Football for the Ultimate Coder challenge but it doesn’t stop here. Clearly all of the teams in the competition had to think about further monetization and development of their application beyond this competition and Soma Games seem to have got some traction on that already. Gree, their in-app purchasing provider, is going to give them some promotional resources. Marketing is something we haven’t talked about much in the last 6 weeks but maybe we should have. I’ve got a proposal below!
Unity 3D have been another partner for Soma Games and this Gaming development environment is going to allow them to push versions of their app to a number of platforms. Maybe this is another part of marketing…getting your app in as many place as possible at the same time. I certainly used to do this with my video productions until YouTube took near 100% of that market! You can read the Soma Games update and watch their wind-up round-up video here.
Clef Software will be submitting their BioIQ app to two app stores this week. Win 8 and AppUp, the Intel/Ultrabook focused store. BioIQ didn’t end up using a lot of the sensors on the device which, for this type of app, is understandable. Like Money Bags, BioIQ is probably at a disadvantage when it comes to showcasing an Ultrabook. Touch can be used by most, if not all apps. The compass, on the other hand – not so useful! Clef have written up some notes about the Win 8 Live Tile feature which is something that annoys me about Windows 8. Why? It’s never a snapshot of ‘now’ so it’s useless as a notification system. You appear to get a random snapshot of any time between now and N minutes ago. I want the ability to lock these live tiles to ‘latest’ or ‘last 5 minutes.’ It’s not so important for a game which is just advertising itself with a cycle of images but for social network notifications, I want a ‘NOW’ snapshot, not a random one. I digress slightly. Sorry! Clef software’s final update is here.
On the subject of marketing…
I would like to offer you all one more bit of exposure on UBNews if you can write me a paragraph on your marketing strategy. How would you recommend a developer get eyeballs? What channels would you use? What percentage of your budget is reserved for this? If you can all submit a short paragraph to me I’ll write it up and link to the store/purchase link of your choice (please put the link in your message.) Send your info to ucc [at) ultrabooknews.com.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat and the Ultimate Coder Challenge has highlighted that. We’ve seen different programming languages in different IDEs aiming at different parts of Windows 8 through different distribution channels. There’s going to be a winner in a few weeks but beyond that, each team will be continuing to ‘win’ in their respective marketplaces. Please, teams, remind me to do an update post 6 months from now so that we get a feel for how your strategy has evolved. There are also surprise winners this week as I give my own awards out. Unfortunately they have no monetary value…
Ultrabook News Ultimate Coder Awards.
The ‘Brick Wall’ award goes to Althea who climbed a lot of them.
The ‘Sleepless in Battle’ award goes to Lee Bamber who must have had ‘special’ Love Heart pills to keep him going.
The ‘Facetime’ award goes to Soma Games who clearly only like typing code.
The ‘One Man and his Log’ award goes to Andreas for code-alone progress.
The ‘Time to Kill’ award goes to Blue Innovations. Code, Blog posts, Ebook and dedicated site. You made me work too hard!
The ‘Bring your Daughter to the Slaughter‘ award goes to Clef Software for creating something that i’ll probably be buying for my little loved one.
It’s been a pleasure and an education following the teams work over the last six weeks. Good luck to all as we enter the judging week.
Full disclosure – We are being compensated for advertising related to the Ultimate Coder Ultrabook Challenge and to attend an Intel event. We have committed to posting at least once per week on this subject and judging the final applications. All posts are 100% written and edited by Ultrabooknews.
All four judges are posting on these sites:
Helena Stone (Chip Chick) , Chris Maunder (CodeProject), John Rettinger (TechnoBuffalo), Steve Paine (Ultrabooknews)
Header image via Vectorportal