In a private Computex session with Gizmodo, Intel's Francois Piednoel says he's cracked the code on what makes the iOS experience better than the competition, and he's spent the past few weeks teaching Taiwanese manufacturers the 'recipe' for success in their next generations of devices. And using last year's Atom processors we touched a user experience that suggests he really has cracked the code.
Intel's Senior Performance Analyst, Francois Piednoel, says its time to talk about the pure maths of user experience. Intel has been building models that closely match how a user is going to react to the responsiveness and smoothness of touch interface gestures. Through their testing to date they feel it's time for the rest of the industry to admit what Apple has been doing right, and by doing so see where they can catch up and go beyond.
"Apple are the only ones who figured out these things so far. But now we're number two in figuring out how to do these and we are now training Taiwan in how to do that."
One of the key elements in the recipe is to always yield to the user. As an example, if you keep a finger on the screen of an iPad or iPhone and try to force a notification - like send a message to the phone via Skype - the device will wait until your finger leaves the screen before it interrupts you. If the user is interacting, other processes are put on hold to ensure you can do whatever it is you expect to be able to do. Nothing else gets in your way.
Beyond high level concepts like that, Intel has specifically been training manufacturers on is the ability to shortcut OS bottlenecks for benefits in UI and power consumption. As one example, a click gesture on Windows 7 requires 50 million instructions to be performed. Under Intel's shortcut methodology they can cut that down to 15,000. With 3000x savings on basic interactions the software starts to get out of the way of delivering smooth, responsive UI.
"People are only really happy when the device is running 60 frames per second," says Piednoel. "Before the iPad people would probably tell you that 30 frames were good enough. But now when they've touched an iPad they require 60."
We had a hands-on demo of an optimised Atom tablet from last year, and even running on top of Windows this thing was delivering a 60fps silky smooth gesture interface. This included deep exploration of a calendar view of a photo and video archive, with videos beginning to play as you zoomed into their range. We saw simultaneous playback of three videos, alongside multiple live browser windows, and all pinch, zoom, and scroll touch experiences felt as slick as the best in the business.
And all on last year's Atom that most people have considered dead in the water.
Of course, new Atoms are on the way. But the fundamental talk here is about putting UX above all else, but doing it in a way that is based on the fundamental maths of what performance measures are actually making a difference.
Experiencing an old Atom hands on delivering the kind of gesture smoothness I've come to expect from an iPad, it may just be that the recipe that Intel is now sharing with Taiwanese manufacturers will see us finally get that intangible "feels good" in many other touchscreen systems.