Tech giant Intel may be best known for its desktop and server processors, but the firm is also one of the world’s largest software companies. Around 13 500 programmers work in all departments from developer relations to software security. And it wants to share some of the knowledge that it’s accumulated over the years with you.
The firm has just launched its global Intel Developer Zone program in South Africa, through which it publishes toolsets and skillsharing seminars with both major studios and independent coders. And it’s not just about coding either: a key area that the firm is focussing on currently is “internet of things” connected devices. It has the hardware to power them, with its Galileo prototyping boards and low power Edison CPUs, and is looking to encourage more software engineers to think about how they can be building for low cost devices and sensors too.
What striking about the Developer Zone, however, is that while one of its main aims is obviously to recruit people into producing stuff based on Intel’s x86 processors, its main app toolkit – the XDK – is HTML5-based and platform agnostic.
“The XDK gives people tools to develop across multiple operating systems and platforms,” explains director of innovation for sub-Saharan Africa Hits Naik, “We want to reach that new mobile frontier – Android, Windows, Apple – we’re involved with all the operating systems.
“We really want to do is lower the bar to entry,” Naid continues, “Edison and Galileo will do for hardware developers what mobile has done for software.”
Naik says that Intel has been building relationships with existing organisations over the last three months, in order to reach as many developers as possible over as short a space of time.
“For Intel, this is just one person in South Africa,” says Naik’s colleague Mohammed Fareed, the business development manager at Intel’s South African Software and Services group who is heading up Developer Zone. “We have to plug into something that’s already existing.”
Fareed says that the Developer Zone program is up and running through Mlab, JCSE, House4Hack, Microsoft, Google and others. He organised a hackathon at Maker Faire Africa last December, and has established ambassadors to run programs around Galileo development at the University of Cape Town and, through Geekulcha, at University of Johannesburg too.
“Our initial focus was Johannesburg and Pretoria,” Fareed continues, “But what we found is that Cape Town has the stronger independent software development community while Gauteng has the more developed student and maker communities. They act very differently, and complement each other in many ways.”
For independent developers, he explains, it’s advised to visit local meetups or partners for advice about Developer Zone tools, but larger firms are encouraged to get in touch with him directly. One firm that Intel has worked with to optimise its code is GoMetro, which recently announced a pilot in Bellville to add taxi routes to its public transport planning app. GoMetro is planning to add a tablet app to its stable soon too.
Make and market
While much of the focus of the Developer Zone program is around creating products and applications for the internet of things and smart cities, Naik says one of the most important resources is the two hour training course around marketing your wares.
“A lot of the time people who have developed an app but don’t spend enough time on marketing,” he says, “But if you throw your app into a store without the right meta tagas and descriptions, it’ll never get found.
“Developers don’t have infinite resources, so how do you package your app up in a way that you provide the story of how it’s going to benefit people. I think that that developers in the US and overseas are better marketeers, because showmanship is part of the culture. You have to package the app well and learn how to sell it.”
Naik says he’s also looking at creating specific app bundles for Africa, featuring locally developed apps that can be promoted through Intel channels. An agriculture pack, with apps for checking crop prices and instructional videos, might make a compelling offer for farmers buying tablets he muses.
“We’re greenfield in terms of what you can do with tech,” he says, “I’ve been here for just over a year, and it’s been a revelation seeing the innovation and ideas that people come up with.”
To find out more about the Intel Developer Zone program and get involved, go to software.intel.com.