Intel seeks Java as AppUp store apps reach 200

The chip maker's China AppUp store is due in 2011

Intel is talking to several companies to use their Web software programming tools with the AppUp store, including Adobe Air and Microsoft Silverlight, but it's having a hard time finding anyone to talk to about Java.

"It's been a little bit of a problem since Oracle acquired Sun," said Don Harbert, general manager of Intel's software and services division, answering questions at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing on Tuesday. "Sun didn't want to make any new deals once they were acquired by Oracle," he said, "and now we don't know who to talk to at Oracle." Oracle closed its purchase of Sun Microsystems, which developed the popular Java programming language, in late January.

Intel has been courting software developers and programming tool makers for its AppUp Center, an application clearinghouse like Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market, but designed for netbooks, tablet PCs, MIDs (mobile Internet devices) and smartphones that use Intel Atom microprocessors. Applications for the AppUp center are designed for either Windows or MeeGo, a Linux-based OS that combines Intel's Moblin OS and Nokia's Maemo OS.

The chip maker hopes developers will create free and paid software programs for the AppUp Center.

The fledgling center was announced in January but Intel had been working on it prior to that, for about nine months total, said Harbert. Last month, Intel hatched a plan to lure developers to the store with cash payments and incentives. The gambit appears to have worked, because now the AppUp Center boasts 200 applications.

Intel is also adding a new function to allow developers to sell software components to other developers.

"The goal is to make it as easy as possible for developers to create, submit and make money on their software products," he said.

Another goal is for Intel to tap into the growing popularity of apps to make netbooks and other small devices containing Atom microprocessors more compelling. Around 45 million netbooks with Intel Atom chips inside have been shipped worldwide so far, said Intel executive vice president David Perlmutter, in a speech at IDF.

"This is the fastest growing product category, ever, for Intel," he said.

Netbooks are mini-laptops that have become popular because they're easy to carry around and use to surf the Internet wirelessly. They're smaller, lighter and less expensive than traditional laptops, but they also carry less powerful processors and lack DVD drives. The AppUp Center is meant to make them more useful the way apps make smartphones more useful.

One key aspect to the Intel plan is to keep the AppUp Center as a place where Intel handles all validation of each application, all transactions and billing and responsibility for further developing and maintaining the catalog of apps. The company does not want partners such as Dell to build competing app stores, but instead hopes they will build storefronts to sell apps to preinstall on their netbooks and let Intel continue to run the catalog.

Dell, for example, could preinstall a storefront client on netbooks and would then get a percentage of the revenue of every app sold, said Harbert.

"It's a true app store, not a Web store," said Harbert. "The store lives on the device," he added. Intel splits revenue for every paid app with the developer, with 30 percent of revenue to Intel and the rest to the developer. Companies, such as Dell in the example, that develop storefronts to pre-install on netbooks they sell would get a portion of Intel's 30 percent take, he said.

Harbert was in Beijing in part to implore Chinese developers to start creating apps for the AppUp Center. "We expect netbooks to really take off and start shipping in volume in China in 2011, there's a big opportunity for developers," he said.

An AppUp Center client aimed at China will be out in 2011, he said. Intel recently announced similar beta clients would become available at the end of March for 27 European countries. The U.S. and Canada were first to get the clients.

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Dan Nystedt

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