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Intel software chief promotes cross-platform app development

Intel will announce HTML5 programming tools with the aim of reducing application development costs and boosting revenue for developers, software chief Renee James said Wednesday.

James kicked off her keynote at the Intel Developer Forum by addressing the challenge of making money developing mobile applications and said that the company's goal is to unify app development across operating systems and devices.

James faced her own challenge, with the tough assignment of giving her IDF speech at the Moscone Center in San Francisco just an hour ahead of Apple's highly anticipated launch of the iPhone 5 at the nearby Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

"I get to be the opening act for Apple's announcement," James said.

The buzz ahead of James' keynote about software and services was around Apple's product launch, which IDF attendees thought would reduce the visibility of James' keynote. But the hall was packed with developers excited by Intel's software efforts.

Intel offers programming tools for developers to write applications for the latest PC, tablet, mobile and server processors. The company also employs thousands of developers writing drivers, mobile applications, embedded applications and contributing to operating systems. The company supports native programming across multiple platforms, James said. Intel will also offer cross-platform development tools for iOS, Android, Windows and Tizen, she said. Microsoft and Apple already back HTML5, and tools exist to port from Apple's iOS to Android.

The company is promoting writing applications in HTML5, which works across platforms and accessibility of the cloud. HTML5 can bring down cost of development for customers and also bring a consistent app experience across devices, James said.

Intel will announce tools for HTML5 programming in the future, James said. A common platform will reduce the efforts needed to test apps and also cut costs related to fixing bugs and porting software across environments.

"What if you can write once and run it on all platforms," James said.

Right now, developers are putting all their eggs in one OS basket, choosing Apple, Android or Windows, which is highly risky, James said. There is a better chance to make money if applications work across multiple architectures and platforms.

"It's hard for developers to make money," James said.

According to an Intel survey presented during the keynote, 63 percent of all applications generate less than US$5,000 per month, and 33 percent of all apps make $100 to $500 per month. About 50 percent of all application production costs are tied to marketing and 76 percent of device users stop using an app after three months.

"You have to continuously capture their attention or release a new version," James said.

On-stage demonstrations showed how HTML5 makes it easier to share data across devices. DigitalMementos, for example, offers mapping software that lets users send messages between devices when they are in specific areas. For example, if a user is close to a store in a specific area, another user can send them a message to pick up a particular item.

Intel also announced the Intel Developer Zone website to provide tools and distribution opportunities to developers. It will help promote the user interface and promote tools for cross-platform development.

Intel will also offer cross-platform development tools for iOS, Android, Windows and Tizen, James said. Microsoft and Apple already back HTML5, and tools exist to port from Apple's iOS to Android.

James didn't offer a time frame for release of the tools. "Stay tuned," she said.

While it still rules the PC market, Intel has yet to make its presence felt in the smartphone and tablet markets, but James' message includes app development for ultrabooks, Intel's category of thin-and-light laptops with tablet-like features. Intel has shown multiple ultrabook designs, including convertible designs with detachable screens that double as tablets.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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