Intel online software stores set to conquer world
First North America, now Europe, then...
Referring to a vendor's options, Biddle said: "We're a developer program and a store in a box. You can do it as lightweight or as heavyweight as you want. If you want to go light and just say 'We're going to do a quick-and-dirty store' as an experiment, we can manage basically everything for you, if that's what you want. If you want to say, 'We actually see this as a great market-differentiator for us, we're going to double-down on our ability to work directly with consumers, so maybe we're going to offer only software that's consistent with our marketing and our demographic,' then you can do that too."
When asked whether there would be, for example, an Acer area at the Intel AppUp Center or a standalone Acer AppUp Center, Biddle replied: "Honestly I don't want to sound sort of emphatic about one or the other because it could turn out that both are true. What we're thinking right now is that there would be, for example, an Acer store - whatever they want to call it, the Acer Marketplace, the Acer Download Place, Acer Cool Stuff, whatever. It would have the Intel AppUp Center logo in the lower lefthand corner, but otherwise it's the Acer store."
From Intel's point of view, a Samsung netbook user could, for example, buy something from the Acer store. That said, Biddle cautioned that locking out an app could happen at the device level, though not at the store level. "If somebody builds a device that has controls over what can and can't run, then they can, for example, make their device exclusive to their store - but that's outside of us."
Although the netbook AppUp Center betas currently support only Windows and Moblin 2.1, Linux is under investigation. "We're looking at Linux," Biddle says - but his priorities are clear: "We want to support Atom. We are first and foremost a processor vendor - we're going to support Atom right now, and clearly the right answer to that is Moblin and Meego, but we are a CPU business. We want to make sure users of our devices have the best possible experience.
"This is very much consistent with what we want to do in AppUp - and, frankly, with Moblin and Meego. This is supporting both our current position in existing markets like netbooks and our pursuit of future markets like slates, tablets, and handhelds."
But Biddle doesn't want to tell vendors or consumers what to do. "I've got a lot of scar tissue around 'imposition of will' on consumer demand, as well as on third parties, and so my perspective is that we want to focus energy around Atom and netbooks because we think it's a sufficiently large-volume installed base but not so big that we're trying to boil the ocean."
At CES, Otellini expressed high hopes for the future of the AppUp Center approach to software sales: "Looking forward," 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."
But the concept has a long way to go before it conquers the world. For example, the fact that both the North American and European AppUp Centers are still in beta, according to Biddle, is "very much by design." There's a lot of work that remains to be done, and the beta tag provides some cover. "Keeping the beta label around things like rolling out new currencies, rolling out new direct runtime support - getting a few of those under our belt we think is super-important while we're still in beta so that we can make sure that we can make them bulletproof."
But netbooks are, for Biddle's money, the right place to start, and Europe is a great place to dive in. "We're super-excited about Europe because, for example, the consumer profile is quite interesting. And the commuter profile is quite interesting: a lot of short-to-medium plane, train, and bus transport - and if you're on a train for an hour, a netbook is the perfect device. It's ideal. It's got great battery life - it's better for that experience than my iPhone, hands-down." ®
Although Biddle claims that the AppUp Center's validation procedures will be transparent, they do have one thing in common with Apple's App Store: a distaste for human flesh. According to the Application Ratings section of the developer guidelines, "Content that generally falls under the category of pornography" will be prohibited - namely: "Nudity or sexual material (e.g. exposed breasts, bare buttocks, visible genitals, visible sexual touching, explicit sexual language, erections/explicit sexual acts, bondage/SM, erotica)."