‘Tis the season to get touchy-feely

The number of ways you can interact with your mobile devices has expanded further in 2012 than in previous years. This year we have seen convertible laptops hit the market, which turn from a PC into a tablet in one careful snap. New sensors like gyroscopes, compasses and accelerometers have arrived to give us more scope to be creative with our tech.  At the same time as our devices are changing, we have changed the way we use apps on them. And more importantly, what we expect from our apps.

The new sensors and features on devices are ripe for exploitation by developers. Without sounding too much like a teacher, we need to make sure we help this technology reach its full potential. By embracing the new functions and models available, we can develop the apps of the future: the ones that people are talking about.

Back in May this year Intel launched the Ultrabook™ Experience Software contest with exactly that in mind. They ran a six-month competition to see how developers could integrate sensor and touch features into apps; new or current.  Over 250 developers from over 20 countries submitted innovative app ideas, and 30 developers were taken forward to the next stage. Intel provided the resources, examples and samples, and the chosen 30 used their imaginations and coding skills to run riot. In a few months, they brought to life a host of varying ideas that exploited the new sensors: touch and gesture. These designs all had the Intel Ultrabook at the heart of them and made sure to bridge the gap between PC and mobile devices by making an app that worked on both.

Three winners were crowned, and given prizes to reflect their outstanding efforts, having demonstrated unparalleled skills and inventiveness in their software designs. The top three are:

  1. “NUIA Imagine” – Silke Oberle (4tiitoo AG): an application that helps you organise your vacation pictures in a very intuitive manner via touch and voice recognition
  2. “Day by Day” – Ercan Erciyes: a lifestyle application that helps you organise your day with the help of touch screen
  3.  “Live Ball” – Ivan Petrovic (Finalhit Ltd.): a touch and sensor friendly ball game.

From a developer’s point of view, this ever-expanding range of form factors with new features is an opportunity to create something different. Creating hybrid apps could be the key; write once but compatible anywhere. Just make sure the one app you write includes the functionality to let it translate across as many as possible devices. 

Drinks on Intel at an exclusive developer event in London

Only one week to go until the exclusive Intel Developer Evening at London’s Sway Bar on Wed October 12th.
Come along for free food, drinks, networking and a chance to check out app opportunities – there are no formal presentations., we promise.
The Intel Developer Evening is not a hackathon; the emphasis is on networking and fun in a swanky central London venue (Sway Bar’s glamorous Milk Bar and Crystal Bar will both be open).
There will be a chance to get hands-on with a range of devices and win great prizes – not USB sticks.
Intel can show you how to get apps hosted on the Intel AppUp center, which can reach audiences in the US and Canada, EMEA and APAC countries, and hopefully help you to make some money.
You’ll discover some of the benefits of the program such as:
• how to easily sell your apps in a competitive market
• becoming part of an active and fully supported developer community
• opportunities to discuss and debate with fellow developers
Just to recap on some of the important bits and to find out how to sign up.
It is on 12th October, from 6.30-11.30pm in the Sway Bar, in Central London.
You need to register for the event, so please drop katy.phillips@intentmedia.co.uk an email to reserve your place.
There are no registrations on the evening so don’t miss out – you need to sign up now.
Feel free to tell a colleague, but note that the evening is strictly for developers only.

Don’t delay because places are filling up fast.

AppUp Elements 2011 – Getting your app validated on AppUp

For any app store, getting your program validated can seem like a dark art – mysterious forces behind the scenes apparently there to halt your journey towards app success. Vipul Chopra at Intel has some tips on the validation process and what common traps to avoid to ensure your app makes it to the AppUp Center as quickly as possible.

The first thing to note is that there are two types of validation: binary and meta – in that order. Binary focuses on the app itself and meta focuses on the meta data you added as part of the submission process, including the app description etc.

The binary tests are as follows:
– Download, install, launch – your app should launch from the store and from a native location such as a desktop icon or program menu
– Primary functionality – buttons, features, menu items, levels, game play should all function correctly
– Check for viruses and malware – obviously, these should be absent
– An actual person will test and validate the app fully
– You can check guidelines on the Intel AppUp developer program website here

Meta validation test, which takes place after the binary validation, includes:
– A check on the content rating, which should be appropriate to the content of your app. Specific guidelines exist to help with this – for example, if the app accesses social media accounts such as Facebook or Twitter, it must be rated as 17+
– A check on the long and short descriptions you provided on your app -these should describe the content
– The validation team then assigns categories for your app to feature in (taking into account the suggestions you made during submission)
– If you have only changed the meta data since your last app submission, the binary validation is not needed and your app will be validated much faster

Common pitfalls to avoid:
– Apply for Microsoft code signing as soon as you join the program to avoid the five day wait that this entails when you want to submit your app
– Beta test your app on clean devices, not on development machine, and make sure you use basic factory settings
– Windows 7 starter has basic drivers, so apps cannot assume any resource is pre-installed
– Your app doesn’t launch from store due to relative path in the source code. Use the full path for application drivers and resource files. Beta testing will help to reveal this issue
– Creating MSI with bad shortcuts

AppUp Elements 2011 – why you should localise your app

You’ve built your app. You’ve loaded it to the Intel AppUp Center. You’re starting to see a few sales but you’re not really making any money. What can you do to secure more downloads?

Stefan Englet, European developer program manager at Intel, spoke at AppUp Elements 2011 on one of the things developers can do to increase their potential market and monetise their app more effectively: localisation.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the top 50 apps on the AppUp Center get 50% of the total revenue through the store. The top 1000 apps get 98% of the revenue. The wealth is not being shared – great for the top few but not for anyone else. The need to find ways to sell to more users is great, but why should localisation, rather than better marketing or better quality apps, be the route to achieving this?

The reason is in the numbers: 52 percent of AppUp Center consumers speak English as a first language. This is significantly more than any other language
and yet by only building apps in English, developers are cutting out half of their potential market. The total breakdown for the AppUp Center installed base runs as follows:

English – 52%
Spanish – 13%
French – 12%
German – 10%
Italian – 7%

Some apps need only change language in order to localise – Englet used the example of My Little Artist, a drawing app by Dmitri Rizshkov which supports English, German, French, Spanish and Russian.

Other apps need more effort to localise, such as Lugdulo’V by Corentin Chary, an app for finding bicycle rentals in the local area. To extend this app to new audiences has required more extensive modification – new maps and information for different cities around the world. Once updated for new regions, however, the app is instantly useful to people in those locations.

It would be good to understand what the above developers achieved in terms of additional downloads from those regions but unfortunately this wasn’t part of the session.

Given the potential market increase with localisation and the fact that Intel has now localised the AppUp Center and developer program, the company is offering developers some support in getting their apps viewed by non-English language consumers. Support offered includes:

- Validation of localised-only apps – the AppUp Center used to require English language meta data but this is no longer the case
– Support for entering new markets – advice about localisation
– Localisation tools for developers

Certainly something for mobile coders to think about but some case studies showing increases in downloads might help convince developers that it’s worthwhile putting time and effort into localising their apps.

AppUp Elements 2011 – The new MeeGo and the new HTML

Scott Apeland, director of Intel’s developer program operation, had big things to highlight in his keynote at AppUp Elements 2011: the company’s move into Tizen and HTML5.

In case anybody missed it, yesterday the Linux Foundation and the LiMo Foundation announced Tizen – a standards-based, cross-architecture, open source software platform. The blend of MeeGo and LiMo, along with some ‘new ingredients’, will support smartphones in the first instance, before extending to tablets, smart TVs and in-vehicle infotainment in the future.

So far, so MeeGo. What, I hear you ask, differentiates Tizen from Intel’s previous efforts?

There are a few things, as it turns out. In a lunchtime discussion with Apeland and developer champion Peter Biddle, it transpires that Intel knows it has stretched developers’ patience in some areas but really believe they’ve cracked it this time. Tizen’s LiMo heritage, for example, meets the needs and business models of operators and carriers, giving it broad support from this community. Intel also pledges an SDK in early 2012, with devices to follow in the second half of the year – a close enough timeframe to gain developer interest.

Tizen APIs are based on HTML5 – a great thing for getting your app across multiple devices and platforms, but less fun for coders who have poured their efforts so far into Qt. Apeland was quick to assure the Elements crowd that any software so far created would continue to be compatible, however at the same time, Intel is handing out free HTML5 support kits to its developers to help them get started on the new technology. These include books, educational DVDs and a month’s subscription to tutorials website Lynda.com – and some red liquorice, oddly.

The move to HTML5 came, Apeland described, from Intel’s efforts to rewrite its AppUp Center so that it would work across devices and platforms. Rather than keeping rewriting the client, the engineers decided to put it in HTML5 so that very little was left to do to optimise it for new and emerging device types. It seemed obvious that the same model would work best for AppUp developers too.

Apeland commented, “It means you can have an app that is local and takes advantage of those capabilities but also accesses cloud and web, taking advantage of those. This gives it both native and web advantages.”

It’s not all new, however. Intel Encapsulator already supports HTML5 -packaging it up and enabling it to run on Windows and MeeGo.

The keynote concluded by promising more info about Tizen and the associated SDK soon – the first to know will be existing AppUp developer program members.

AppUp Elements 2011 – AppUp Creator demo

As part of the AppUp Elements 2011 keynote, Scott Apeland demos the AppUp Creator (beta). The tool allows anyone to create an app in under 5 minutes, even with no prior coding experience.

Apologies for the camera quality – I was caught short on a decent camera at the time!

Softtalkmobile is now writing Intel-sponsored blogs for Develop and Mobile Entertainment

I know this blog hasn’t been updated for a while, but I have still been writing and keeping myself busy. With my Softtalkmobile hat on, I am now writing a weekly blog for Mobile Entertainment and Develop, both sponsored by the Intel AppUp developer program. Each week, I’ll be writing about some of the current trends in developing games and non-gaming apps, and commenting on some of the latest news. Although the articles are sponsored by Intel, they do not necessarily represent Intel’s views and I am not an Intel employee. I hope that you’ll swing by these blogs and check out some of the previous articles I’ve written, and perhaps join in the discussion by leaving comments on the posts there too.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.