The hurdles facing Intel's 'AppUp' app store for Moblin and Windows netbooks

CES 2010The phrase, "There's an app for that," has helped the Apple iPhone become one of the most popular smart phones in the world by making it easier for consumers to download applications, widgets, and gadgets. "The number of apps users can download, free or for a fee, has become a major selling point for mobile devices," said The Wall Street Journal. "Companies that lack an app marketplace, such as Palm Inc., have suffered for it."

"The opening of Apple Inc.'s App Store in 2007 was the catalyst that had the greatest effect on smartphone sales," said Money Morning. "Instead of just a phone with a few widgets like a Web browser and a music player, phones became remote controls, compasses, newspapers and cookbooks."

Apple now has more than 100,000 apps, and some developers have made up to $1 million per month selling apps in the App Store.
Not surprisingly, the Apple App Store has been followed by a number of imitators, including Samsung, Google, and Research In Motion. Users on the average download from 35 to 40 apps each, for totals of up to 40 million in five months for Android, which has an estimated 20,000 apps.

And, as Apple announced this week, it has hit 3 billion downloads for the iPhone, in less than 18 months -- which is doubled since mid-July, when it hit the 1.5 billion mark.

Intel demonstrated a Dell Moblin-based netbook on an Atom platform running its own themed version of the AppUp app store, during CEO Paul Otellini's keynote speech to CES Thursday night.


Consequently, it's not surprising that Intel has announced an app store for its Atom-powered netbooks made by Acer, Dell, and others, after announcing its intention to do so in September. The first program for netbooks, it follows other similar programs by specifying a 70/30 revenue split with developers.

The every-seven-days dilemma

However, there's a number of questions that remain:

  • How likely are developers to work on yet another set of platforms? Intel said "thousands" of developers have downloaded its starter kit, and more than 350 apps have been submitted for validation or review. But 350 is a long way from 100,000. "Its success really depends on the quality of the apps," agreed Jay Chou, a research analyst for IDC. But there's a big market: almost 33 million netbooks were sold last year, with 38 million expected for this year, he said. Intel is also making it easier for developers, such as by waiving the $99 annual fee, he said.
  • How complicated will it be for Intel, its OEMs, and consumers to manage multiple platforms -- at first just Windows and Moblin, but later other operating systems, including browser-based OSes, as Intel has promised for the future? Hard to say, but at least at first it's unlikely to be a problem because the vast majority of netbooks -- more than 90% -- are running Windows, Chou said.
  • How complicated is it going to be for developers to get their apps into the Intel store? Apple has come under significant industry criticism, and even an investigation by the US Federal Communications Commission regarding its stringent review process for the App Store. Developers have quit in frustration. On the other hand, without such review, apps that are offensive can slip out there. How will Intel balance this?
  • And finally, how will users react to the requirement that they log in every seven days in order for their applications to continue working? If you had the idea in your head of taking your Intel netbook to Maine for three weeks while you went camping, you're going to have to scout out a Starbucks every week, or zap! "Purchased applications must run with an active internet connection every 7 days to allow off-line operation," noted Intel in its FAQ. "I don't know why they would do that," Chou said. "I suppose they want you to connect every week in order to use it offline in case there are updates."

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