Intel tool will convert iPhone apps to run on Intel chips

Intel hopes the software tool will further its ambitions in the tablet and smartphone markets

Intel is developing a tool that will make it easier for developers to port iPhone applications to Intel-based smartphones, tablets and other devices, a company executive said Tuesday.

Most smartphones and tablets today run on Arm-based processors, so developers tend to write mobile applications first for the Arm architecture. By making it easier to port those applications to Intel processors, Intel hopes to create more software -- and thus more demand -- for devices based on its chips.

The tool will identify changes that need to be made in an iPhone application, making it easier to convert the application to run on Intel-based hardware, said Doug Fisher, vice president of Intel's Software and Services group and general manager of its Systems Software division, in an interview on Tuesday.

In the future it could provide a simple way to port applications to Meego, a Linux-based mobile OS developed by Intel and Nokia that was launched earlier this year.

The tool could help increase the number of applications available at Intel's application store, which is called the AppUp Center. The store hosts netbook applications but is expected to offer applications for other mobile devices in the future. Apple has a head start in this area, however. Its App Store hosts around 250,000 applications.

"We'll get [applications on] AppUp, then Meego and I imagine Windows," Fisher said. "It's basically taking the existing applications, finding the ones that are most relevant to end users, and ensuring they get pulled over."

Intel didn't say when the tool will be released.

Intel is trying to push its Atom processor into smartphones, tablets and other embedded devices, but it is a new entrant to the space. Most phones and tablets today use chips based on Arm devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

"Getting people excited to develop to Intel platforms is absolutely critical to us," he said. Intel is trying to achieve this through developer tools and developer competitions, and by making it easier for developers to monetize their applications, Fisher said.

Intel and Nokia introduced Meego in February. Besides phones and tablets it is also targeted at embedded devices such as set-top boxes and in-vehicle entertainment systems.

Later this month the companies will release version 1.1 of the OS, which will include better touch and telephony capabilities. The OS will appear in netbooks, tablets and in-vehicle entertainment systems by the end of the year.

"By the first half of next year you should start seeing handset devices in the market with Meego," Fisher said.

Intel will also make Meego available for devices using Arm processors. "You should expect to see the Arm architecture in handsets ... with Meego coming out as well," Fisher said.

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