In a press release yesterday, they unveiled plans of a developer program which allows people to target Atom-based devices. Renee James, corporate vice president and general manager, Intel Software and Services Group explains the need for an such as program:
"We want to fuel the growth of Intel Atom-based products designed for the mobile lifestyle. The netbook has become one of the most popular consumer devices in the market today, but its true potential has been limited by applications that are not optimized for its mobility and smaller screen size. The Intel Atom Developer Program provides a great opportunity for developers to create useful and inventive applications that will unlock a netbook's potential while opening a new sales and distribution channel."
In a model similar to that of the iPhone and Palm stores, Intel will get a 30% cut. However, due the the somewhat higher complexity of the ecology surrounding computers as compared to smart phones, Intel's Developer Program will have a slightly more complicated model. Developers can choose to exchange some of their revenue in exchange for promotion, and they can build and charge for components which will earn them percentage revenue share, based on each application using the component. Sounds very much like a pyramid scheme!
The Developer Program supports the Windows and Moblin Linux platforms, and additionally allows developers to use runtime environments such as Adobe AIR and Java. Strangely enough Silverlight is mentioned as a supported platform in the PR, while it is neither an off-line runtime nor cross-platform across the two platforms the program supports! They also plan to extend this range of platforms and runtimes as demand changes.
For an application to be eligible for the Intel Developer Program, developers have to use an SDK being developed by Intel. According to the Intel Developer Program FAQ page "The SDK gives you the libraries and tools to link your application to the Intel Atom Developer Program runtime client running on a customer’s Netbook. You must incorporate these in your application in order for your application to be validated." The SDK will be available soon. This raises a few interesting points:
- Since Atom is capable of running applications which run on just about any other x86-based computer, by limiting the SDK for Atom-only netbooks, developers are essentially limiting the market for their application.
- The best thing about PC's is that there is already a huge variety of good application which cater to all needs. The forced requirement of the SDK will only limit the number of people who can participate. (Note that adding the SDK features to your application would likely be a simpler task as no rewrite would be required)
- While the SDK only supports Intel Atom netbooks, such a restriction seems artificial since the same application could as easily have run on an AMD Neo otherwise.
The presence of an application store for Atom based computers is certainly a great idea, and can especially help people market their apps, however for PCs unlike in smartphones markets there are plenty of other sources available for people to distribute or acquire get the applications. Let us hope that some of these operating system and hardware platform restrictions are only part of the beta stage.