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King Kong and App Distribution

King Kong pictureFresh from receiving updates on Nokia’s Ovi app store in Kuala Lumpur last week, this geek is now hearing about the launch of the Intel Atom Developer Program (IADP) in the Intel Developer Forum 2009 in San Francisco. An Intel netbook app store will be launched soon in conjuction with IADP.

From the initial groan of hearing about more app stores, this geek concludes that app stores should be the way forward as we move towards the attention economy. To quote something I heard at Nokia One Connected World conference in Kuala Lumpur last week, “if content is King, then distribution is King Kong!”

Well, our dear friend “King Kong” has to evolve as distribution models have changed drastically in this day and age. As compared to developers trying to market and distribute their apps all by themselves with limited resources, they can now leverage on app stores which seems to be the way forward, if Apple’s app store success is anything to go by. It’s particular visual for me being in San Francisco now as my hotel the Marriott is right across the road facing the now-closed Virgin Music retail store, which incidentally happens to be facing the bustling Apple store.

Virgin vs Apple picture of stores on street

Apple and the now-closed Virgin stores side-by-side in San Francisco. Taken by the author.

So far it seems, app stores are usually related to one of 2 ‘M’s – music or mobile. The most popular online music store being iTunes and then a slew of app stores popping up now for mobile: Apple’s iPhone app store, Nokia’s Ovi store (currently for Symbian with plans for Maemo), Microsoft’s Windows Mobile “Sky Market” (launching soon), Google’s Android “Market”, and so on. So, this geek shouldn’t really be surprised that Intel is going to launch an app store alongside with the Intel Atom Developer Program which is really for mobility (note the ‘M’) and addressing the netbook segment.

The business opportunity is pretty unique: more than 35 million netbooks have been shipped to date and there hasn’t really been any concerted effort to develop apps for this user segment. While some vendors like Asus have launched their own app stores, it doesn’t seem to have made any traction and now Asus looks to come on board the upcoming Intel app store. I hear that other netbook manufacturers and manufacturers of various atom-based devices in the continuum of devices will come on board too.

Intel’s app store effort is not their foray into the software market as they maintain their focus as a chip maker. Intel maintains that it is an eco-system development effort with some cost recovery at 70/30 revenue share, 70% of all sales going to the developers. The most unique part of this app store is that developers can list component modules for sale, for other developers to fast track their development. Intel plans to manage the revenue share not only between Intel and the developers but between developers and the component developers they work with. Part of this involves a validation process where Intel will not only check that your app installs and uninstalls cleanly, for malwares and other security issues, but also the components that you have used so that component developers will not be shortchanged. However, the validation process will not check if your software is buggy or not.

There is a rating and review system which affects your reputation as a developer, and ties into the IADP where you can earn a black belt. It looks interesting and promising with the component development angle, but the revenue sharing and validation maybe pretty complicated for IADP to manage. As a developer who have been launching your apps on iPhone, Ovi, etc, you should rejoice now with another distribution channel coming your way.

Image courtesy of Brymo.

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