The iPhone is responsible for all sorts of changes in the way we do things but mainly the gestural interface and the rise of the "app". Before the iPhone we had applications that we sweated years to complete and then discovered that there was no way of selling. After the iPhone you could knock up a novelty over night and make a few dollars selling it to iPhone owners or by accepting advertising revenues. Now developers the world over are focusing on a new methodology - making cash.
After the App store things have never been the same and are unlikely to return to the old way of doing things. Apps are here to stay.... what Intel is doing in this story is difficult to say.
The well known hardware maker has more or less finished running its Intel Developer Forum (IDF) and the more informal Intel AppUp Elements gatherings. The big news from which is that Intel has launched an app store - AppUp. It has been in beta for a while and was originally called the Atom Developer program, see Chrome Web store - another way to sell widgets.
Why exactly a hardware manufacturer wants to get involved in end user software, and why the Atom processor is so special that it merits an app store, is something I'm sure we could debate, but to quote a keynote at IDF:
"More stats: Intel's software program is the 3rd largest in the world. Intel provides many online resources. Intel has 90 products from Fortran support to Parallel Studio released last year at IDF."
The AppUp store targets Windows and MeeGo "netbooks" and claims to have just short of half a million users and 24,000 developers - including Sega working to port its older MegaDrive classics to the store. Much of the documentation refers to Moblin rather than MeeGo which is a little confusing. If you search the small print you can discover that a MeeGo SDK is on the way and the Moblin SDK is "MeeGo" ready - whatever this means.
You also have to use the SDK to play with AppUp. Currenlty the SDK supports Moblin, Windows with C/C++ and, new, Adobe AIR. In the future it should also support Silverlight and Java. The SDK is all about linking apps into the AppUp store rather than being anything new or novel in the user interface or other areas of application development.
Once again it is difficult to see the logic in targeting netbooks but it could be argued that they are just another example of a mobile device - even if they generally lack GPS, accelerometers, tilt sensors and, and oh yes, a phone. Of course Intel have big plans for the Atom processor to be inside real phones in the near future and when this happens and MeeGo also appears on some common place hardware it might all make a lot more sense.
What do you get from the AppUp program? To quote Intel:
- The application store and developer catalog manages the details of collecting payments, which will be dispersed monthly to your PayPal account.
- Detailed financial reporting helps you track your long term performance.
- Your users can enter ratings and reviews, which will be reported back to you in your dashboard.
- Any crashes in your applications get reported to you so you can keep track of any issues.
The last item is particularly welcome. New is the detail that if you get an app accepted then you can use the "On Intel AppUp identifier" to promote your product. Joining is free but to submit an app you have to pay $99 per annum. After this the deal is the fairly typical up to 70% royalty on sales.
There is also a competition - Developer Challenge - the first 100 validated apps get an Atom netbook and there are various prizes for innovation and so on. There is also a fund that you can apply for to develop apps that Intel judge as innovative.
Its all a bit strange and difficult to know if it will catch on. Will users realise that the AppUp store is for them - just because they have an under powered laptop that was sold to them as a netbook?
If it was any company other than Intel it wouldn't stand a chance.
Chrome Web store - another way to sell widgets