Intel Launches Netbook Developer Program, Adds Silverlight Support to Atom and Moblin

Intel this week launched a new program it hopes will spark the growth of a multiple developer communities around devices based on its low-power Atom processors which have become popular components of rapidly growing netbook PCs.

The company unveiled its Atom Developer Program at the annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco. The program provides a framework for creating applications for netbooks now, and handhelds and smart phones in the future. The company is also reaching out to developers of Moblin, Intel's new Linux distribution for netbooks and handhelf devices.

Devices based on the Atom processor run on Windows XP and are slated to support Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 7, as well as Moblin.

The new program will support developers working with a range of operating systems and run-time environments, said Renee James, general manager of Intel’s software and services group. Among those is Microsoft’s Silverlight cross-platform browser plug-in. Silverlight 3 will be supported on Atom-Moblin devices early next year, James said.

“This collaboration [between Intel and Microsoft] delivers on Silverlight’s cross-platform, cross-browser, and cross-device promise by going beyond just the PC to allow developers to reach more endpoints for their applications and services,” the Microsoft Silverlight team said in a blog  posting today. Windows and Moblin-based operating environments will be the first supported on the Atom chips. Intel plans to add Java and Adobe AIR runtime support in the future.

Intel has established a site for the new program, where developers are encouraged to sign up. Members currently have access to technical information and updates, as well as tools for creating components and applications. A downloadable preview of the SDK is available on the site.

Netbook makers Acer, Asus, and Dell will be among the vendors hosting their own Atom app stores, James said. “We envision a wide variety of OEM and service-provider storefronts, all taking advantage of these common application frameworks to bring a whole raft of new applications out to end-users,” said Intel chief executive Paul Otellini during his conference-opening keynote.

“It’s a nice win for Intel,” said Michael Gartneberg, vice president of strategy and analysis at industry analyst firm Interpret, “because they really need these relatively slow processors optimized for things like Silverlight. Netbook and hand-held users want to watch things like streaming media without stuttering or the like. For Microsoft, it allows the company to leverage Silverlight as netbook-friendly media technology.”

Still there was a mixed message coming out of Intel at the IDF this week, Gartenberg said. He pointed to Otellini's keynote where he talked about a “computing continuum” that yields “the same experience on any device.”

But Otellini also declared that his company is evolving from personal computers to “personal computing," Gartenberg said. “On the one hand, Intel is talking about the notion of mobile compatibility up and down their product line based on their architectures. And on the other, they’re talking about netbook-specific applications that are aimed at the Atom processor. We’ll have to see how that shakes out in the marketplace.”

Getting Silverlight to run on Moblin is noteworthy but a less significant component of the overall new development program, said Gartner analyst Eric Knipp said. “Silverlight running on Moblin isn’t really a big deal because Flash already runs on it," he said. "I don’t think this is a differentiator.”

Intel has added Moblin because it complements their products, Knipp adds. “They want people to be able to buy cheap netbooks running Intel processors. This is something that Intel has done for years, and it will probably create more demand for their products.”

Although the new Atom developer program and Intel’s support for Silverlight on Atom-Moblin is focused primarily at ISVs, it applies to enterprise developers as well, said Gartenberg.

“For enterprises that are looking to develop internal line-of-business apps and are going to make Silverlight a part of that experience, they can now count on the Atom family of processors of being able to run those applications,” he said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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