Intel’s Orange San Diego raffle at Droidcon

As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m going to Droidcon in London on Thursday and Friday. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Intel’s Orange San Diego raffle, and I’ve just heard some more about how to enter.

If you talk to the nice people at the Intel stand, you’ll be given a quiz card (and other Android goodies) with five simple(ish!) questions, which you can then drop into a bowl. Make sure you do this by 3pm though, as the winner will be announced at 3:30 each day! And remember: you’ve got to be present at the time of the draw in order to win.

Intel’s Steve Hughes is going to be giving a talk on developing games for Android at 2:45 on Friday. After it finishes, we’re all going to head off to the stand to hear who’s won the handset. Fingers crossed!

Steve is also going to be part of a panel discussion at midday on Friday, so make sure you go along to that. I hear there’s even going to be a Motorola-shaped giveaway there…

See you there, droid fans!

Next-generation suites for next generation processors: Intel Parallel Studio 2013

Fifa 13 isn’t the only gem to have come out this Autumn. Intel has just released two new developer suites, Intel Parallel Studio XE 2013 and Intel Cluster Studio XE 2013, both of which should be of interest to anyone with a talent (or interest – they’re not necessarily synonymous!) for writing software.

These have been designed with one overarching purpose in mind: enhancing the performance of applications on the next generation of processors, which includes the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessorsIvy Bridge, and Haswell micro-architectures. Both suites boast a catalogue of new features that I’ve been impressed by.

In Intel Parallel Studio XE, there’s new support for the Intel Math Kernel Library to ensure reproducible results, a new threading assistant, a new 5-step process for improving C++ performance, extended support for Fortran 2003 and 2008 (including co-arrays), support for C++11 standard, a new way to look for memory leaks, additional profiling data in Intel Inspector XE 2013, and a pointer checker to help find memory corruption bugs. Intel Cluster Studio XE includes most of the same new enhancements, but also offers increased MPI scalability (up to 120,000 processes) and Intel Trace Analyzer and Collector now scales up to 6,000 processes.

The suites aim to help developers create more reliable and robust applications – something both developers and users alike would be grateful of. Intel has recognised this and as far as I can see, has made a real effort to help coders overcome these issues.

I’ve linked both suites to their product pages which have more info on their features. Have a look and let me know you think. I’d be interested to know.

Apps World: X marks the spot with cross-platform apps

With a multitude of platforms comes a multitude of problems, according to Michael Koch, CTO and Managing Director of Enough Software. These were just a few of the troubles he has come across:

  • Every platform has its own programming language, so it requires different support for multi-tasking
  • Push notifications meet varying limitations too, depending on the platform
  • From a user’s point of view, the keys can totally alter the set up of the app – users can have anything from a touchscreen to a scroll button to a qwerty keyboard

So yes, as Enough Software pointed out, there are a lot of obstacles that lie in the way of producing a cross-platform app. But anyone, from a major and established brand right down to a start-up, would be insane to think their app can survive on a single platform. To reach the largest audience with a quality experience, developers need to be thinking on a multi-platform basis.

There is so much growth potential in having a connected experience across all devices. Think about the number of games you can play with your friends. Now think about how many different devices you’re playing them on. I’m willing to bet that none of you only keeps the company of people who use a specific platform (partially because that would be really, really odd).

There is no universal way to go cross-platform; it all depends on what type of user experience you want to provide. But judging from the response of the crowd at Apps World, going cross-platform is a question of how, not if.

It’s back: Droidcon 2012

As I mentioned in August, I’m going back to Droidcon when it returns to the Business Design Centre in Islington on 25th-26th of this month.

In a recent interview, Eric Schmidt said the industry is consistently preoccupied with the Android vs iOS debate. I may be slightly biased but I have a feeling that Droidcon is going to be the platform from which Android can position itself as the reigning mobile platform.

The event is heavily supported, with sponsorship from Nook Development, Facebook and Intel®. I know that the Intel stand will be particularly buzzy. A little birdy tells me they’ll even be giving away two Orange San Diegos with Intel Inside® – one a day – to those who can answer five questions about Intel’s venture into the Android market. Get researching!

So, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the industry will choose to display at Droidcon. If you don’t have a ticket already, you may be able to get one for free – @B_Fraedrich has been giving away tickets for the past two Fridays and her final competition is happening at 2pm on Friday 19th October.

See you there, droid fans!

And the winner is…

The winner of Intel’s Ultimate Coder Challenge has been announced, and it is Sagar with his Shufflr app, which enables you to find, watch and discuss online video. The judges gave the app the highest points for quality, and said that it’s a fun app that makes the most of the Ultrabook’s new input methods.

All the contestants delivered apps and documentation that were rated highly, but I think they did something more important than that: they showed that it is possible to create a high-quality app for a new device in just six weeks. They were working with a prototype device on a pre-release operating system, so the odds were stacked against them. But they all delivered.

What are you planning to do in the next six weeks?

Apps World: Growing app

During Apps World last week, Earl’s Court was flooded with techies, developers and app enthusiasts – myself included. I came away with more than just free fudge (thanks JCommerce!), so thought you would be interested to hear my response to a couple of the talks at the Developer Zone.

My morning kicked off with a Barnes and Noble case study focussing on the many stages of the Android-based Nook. The speaker, Claudia Romanini, took a look at the future of apps in a content centric world. She spoke about how B&N defined its target market and aimed for the ultimate user experience with each development of Nook. Its prime market, for instance, is families; so they design their tablets to be light enough for children to use.

She made an interesting point: people don’t buy technology, they buy services. This got me thinking. Tech companies don’t need to provide technology. They need to provide an experience – and a magical one at that, given the competition. Most customers don’t understand the intricacies of what’s going on inside their device. They don’t care; and why should they? All they need is a reliable, working, and hopefully impressive device. That, in itself, is the magical experience tech companies need to provide. Selling tech for tech’s sake is not the way to speak to us (not even the savvy lot at Apps World, if the murmurs of agreement were anything to go by).

It doesn’t matter what your grasp on tech is like. From nought to nerd, everyone wants their devices to fit seamlessly into their lives. Focussing on apps, there are some fantastic ones out there – but many are still in the awkward stage of finding their feet (the teenagers of the app world, if you will). When an app becomes part of a device as opposed to an add-on, that’s when it’s hit optimum user experience. Nice to see companies paying attention to this!

Ultimate Coder Challenge: the final countdown

I’ve been following the Ultimate Coder Challenge and, after six gruelling weeks, the end is almost upon us. With the competition so tough, I’m not sure how the judges will reach their decision. It seems that as the contestants are wrapping up, the judges’ work really starts.

For their app, John and the team at Soma Games have gone for a winning formula: a robots and football game called Wind Up Football. It may sound like they’ve been having a lot of fun, but John does acknowledge the trickiness of including all the Ultrabook features in a user-friendly way. They’ve triumphed though, and have also managed to optimise the app for multi-platform deployment – which I’m sure is going to make the judges see this as a big hit in the long run.

In Lee’s final blog, he gives us a nice demonstration of his Love Hearts app. He seems to make fantastic use of the Ultrabook by integrating as many of its features as possible. Taking it beyond the development phase, he addresses the monetisation issue by using in-app tokens in the Windows Store and using his Freedom Engine platform to make the purchase codes. His vision for the app is almost contagious, and sure to win him some brownie points among the judges.

Shailesh has done a great job in making biology exciting in his BioIQ app. His use of the Ultrabook’s touch design standards has been one of the outstanding features of this app. The Windows 8 and AppUp versions are ready to go. Read Shailesh’s post here – he’s (rightfully) pleased with how everything’s wrapped up.

George and Suresh, from Blue Innovations, take a look back over the past six weeks and note how the Challenge is just as much about the journey as the destination. Nice! They’ve made some clever moves along the way, such as integrating NFC into their MoneyBag app, which allows users to note financial transactions on their smartphones and transfer them to their Ultrabook so they can analyse their personal finances.

Sagar and his team at Althea Systems have made their social video app, Shufflr, one of the most exciting new apps for the Ultrabook. It’s relevant for the current marketplace too, and Sagar blogs about AOAC (Always On Always Connected) and push notifications, eventually allowing network updates to come in every 10 minutes.

As a one-man team, Andreas has been working hard throughout the competition. It’s not been without its difficulties though, as he reveals in his blog. He’s added a flashcard game with semantic zoom to his vocab training app, which I’m sure is going to win usability points among the judges.

The past six weeks have been a coding rollercoaster and each of the teams has had its ups and downs. But they’ve all accomplished a lot in such a short time, providing an invaluable bank of knowledge for future app developers. The winner is going to be announced on October 8th – who do you think will be crowned Ultimate Coder?

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