February 22, 2013

HTML5 on a Chip? Intel Gets Serious with Acquisition of appMobi HTML5 Assets

The founding of appMobi (NewsAlert) dates back to 2006, and we ourselves have been tracking the company since 2009, when it first became apparent to us that HTML5 was going to play an important role in the future of mobility. We have since watched the company grow its technology and various platforms – which allow developers to write sophisticated HTML5 apps that are also able to take advantage of the native capabilities built into mobile devices (that is, hybrid mobile apps), into a significant force within the HTML5 ecosystem.

Company founder Sam Abadir, appMobi’s CTO and chairman, has had a long Internet, Web and cloud computing career, and is passionate and outspoken on the virtues of HTML5. We spoke with him at one point about his goals, chief among them the delivery of sophisticated tools that would allow developers to write pure, fast and twitchy HTML5/hybrid games that would rival native-built apps. We’re not sure if that particular goal has been achieved yet (Facebook certainly doesn’t think it’s there yet), but the world is getting much closer to making it happen, and appMobi has played a role in this.

More recently, appMobi has also extended its platform (not surprisingly) to include a new and free cloud service that was introduced in August 2012 called openBuild, that allows developers to compile appMobi-based HTML5 code into a distributable ‘hybrid’ app. The openBuild service supports all HTML5 and JavaScript frameworks and allows developers to use any mobile-ready framework – jQuery, jqMobi, Enyo, Meteor, Sencha Touch, to name a few – with openBuild for compiling and packaging their HTML5 code into store-ready hybrid apps. And appMobi also provides storeView, a cloud-based reporting service for PhoneGap and hybrid HTML5 app developers, which displays detailed app analytics across all popular app stores in a single dashboard.

The company has a lot going for it, but perhaps the greatest challenge for appMobi has been in finding a suitable means to monetize its services in non-trivial ways. This morning, the company looks to have found a way to do that – at least this is our conclusion following the news, via an appMobi letter to employees and its user base, that it has now sold all of its HTML5 technology assets – with the exception of openBuild – to Intel (News Alert). The tools included in the purchase are the Mobius Web browser, jqMobi and jqUI developer frameworks, directCanvas HTML5 acceleration, appMobi’s XDK IDE (Integrated Developer Environment), GameDev XDK, PhoneGap XDK, and all of the company’s testing and debugging tools.

The cost to Intel for acquiring the assets is currently undisclosed and we’ll likely have to track down Intel’s next quarterly financial statements to trace down that number. All of appMobi’s development team – which is integral to the deal – will join Intel.

It is interesting that Intel didn’t acquire the entire company and simply jettison the cloud services – which Intel has no use for. Rather, Intel acquired all the developer assets and has left appMobi whole. The company will now focus exclusively on delivering its cloud-based services. Perhaps a company such as Telerik will stop buy and put an offer for this end of the business – which might make a nice complimentary fit for its own HTML5 platforms.

The following excerpt from the appMobi letter speaks to one possible appMobi future:

As a pure-play cloud services company now, appMobi will still provide the solutions that power mobile apps across all platforms, giving your apps in-app purchasing, live updates, push messaging, gamification, app store analytics, and more. The availability and integration of our cloud services will be just as before, ensuring that you can continue to take advantage of the great engagement and monetization capabilities that appMobi has always offered for your current and future apps.

Intel and its Chips – Big for HTML5 Performance

Aside from changing the names of the various tools Intel has acquired from appMobi to more suitable Intel terminology, developers will see no differences in how the tools work. It will be a simple transition. However, developers can now anticipate the former appMobi development teams receiving a huge increase in investment dollars from Intel, as well a much easier ability to expand the teams.

Will appMobi’s former developers be a fit for Intel’s culture? That of course remains to be seen.

For Intel, the ability to control and very likely speed up the pace of HTML5 development will be critical to its efforts to finally break into the mobile space in a serious way. Intel has seriously lagged behind ARM and Qualcomm (News Alert) but is finally ready to make the mobile commitment for real. If it can push HTML5 real world development into hyper-drive it will prove a powerful force for the company?

Keep in mind as well that Intel isn’t only going to provide development resources. It will also provide the resources – and in fact this is likely the most powerful aspect of the deal – to put a lot of HTML5 support directly into its chips. This was certainly a major motivation for Intel’s acquisition of MacAfee and we anticipate seeing new Intel silicon that will boast chip-level HTML5 support. Further, chip level HTML5 integration also means far faster access to mobile device capabilities and services – GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer and so on will all become "native" in working with embedded HTML5 capabilities.

Perhaps Intel will now be able to offer Apple (News Alert) some interesting new mobile options to jointly pursue. Perhaps Intel will help Apple to deliver some innovative new next generation ideas. And perhaps Facebook (NewsAlert) will return to HTML5.

For the HTML5 market generally, we believe the deal is a win-win for the industry as a whole. Well, for the HTML5 industry as it now relates to Intel in any case.

We look forward to Intel delivering a true advance for the HTML5 ecosystem and now look forward to seeing the goal of delivering pure, fast and twitchy HTML5 games realized to the fullest.

Edited by Brooke Neuman


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