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Intel reinvents software sales with AppUp Center

First netbooks, then the world

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CES 2010 Intel has announced the launch of a new way to validate and sell apps targeted to specific portions of the Intel-architecture market. The plan is to start with netbooks, then take over the world.

The success of netbooks surprised everybody. Some vendors caught the wave and rode it to success, and some were swamped by it. But whether your favorite manufacturer is surfing or drowning, you have to agree with Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini when he told his Consumer Electronics Show keynote audience Thursday evening that netbooks have provided "an opportunity for a new wave of software applications."

At IDF in the fall of 2009, Intel launched the Atom Developers Program, which Otellini described as a way for software developers to be able to create new or adapt old applications to take advantage of the growing hoard of netbooks.

All well and good, but as Otellini explained, the next step was to give consumers access to those applications. So, at CES Intel introduced he called "the beta version of the first storefront, called AppUp Center," that provides netbook apps designed for Windows and Linux - including, of course, Moblin.

The AppUp Center is a provider/client system, with a downloadable client app that allows access to the AppUp Center service provided by, well, the provider. Otellini's take was more results-based: He described it as "a one-stop location where users can find applications that are tailor-made and validated for the netbooks that they own."

He gave no details as to exactly what he meant by "validated," but we're surmising that the validation process won't be as draconian as the secretive selections undertaken by Apple's App Store police.

An Intel engineer identified by Otellini only as "Peter" said that the impetus behind the development of the AppUp Center was to solve the context problem. "It's very hard for web programmers to get to the context of the device - that means that the internet is the same on a netbook when it is in a coffee shop as it is on a workstation, or even a server in a data center," he said.

True, that.

And so the AppUp Center: an online resource that vendors can create and customize, and which netbook users can access to find those netbook-specific apps recommended by the vendor of their netbook.

Peter demonstrated a few web-centric apps appropriate to netbook owners, and therefore appropriate for the netbook-centric AppUp Center. He previewed Dell's AppUp Center running on a Moblin-based Dell netbook, from which he downloaded an app called Frame, which he described as "a neat little integrated VoIP and IM app," and an Asus netbook running Windows 7 previewing that company's AppUp Center, from which was downloaded another web-centric app.

The basic structure of a company's AppUp Center will be the same, but the look-and-feel - the skin, as it were - is customizeable.

The Intel beta of the AppUp Center is now up and accessible here. There aren't many apps on it as of yet, but Peter promised that "We'll be updating on an hour-by-hour basis." At lest that's what he said when he was standing next to his company's head honcho on the CES keynote stage.

Otellini announced that the four major netbook manufacturers - Acer, Asus, Dell, and Samsung - have all committed "to build AppUp Center storefronts of their own, with their own branded front," which will roll out by the end of this quarter.

"Looking forward, though," he said, "our vision is not to limit this just to netbooks. The vision is to extend it to any Intel-architecture device in the computing spectrum. So, up into the PC space to be able to address the billion units of PCs that are out there...but increasingly down into handheld and even smart-TV space over time."

From Otellini's point of view, doing so will give developers a platform to sell their wares, and users the ability to have a "safe applications experience across a very wide variety of devices over time."

In other words, the transformation of the middleman software-vendor model. Apple proved it could be done on the smartphone level, and Otellini now wants to extend vendor-chosen and -validated online app sales to the entire PC universe. ®

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