Intel is getting serious about encouraging developers to build applications designed for its Atom platform and putting its money where its mouth is: enter the Intel Atom Developer Program Million Dollar Development Fund.

The Development Fund is Intel's way of tempting individuals and companies into developing applications for its AppUp application store - a site which aims to be a one-stop shop for netbook-friendly downloads, both paid and free. Described by the company's Maryann Iannitti as "a multi-faceted fund to help accelerate innovation," there are three levels on which developers can enter.

The first is dubbed the Fast Track 2010, and is the simplest: register for the AppUp store and upload an application - in Iannitti's words, become a "validated application developer or entity" - and you'll receive an immediate $500.

The next level is Dollars for Downloads 2010: for the first four months of your application's presence on AppUp, Intel will give you $2 for each unique download - either added to the amount you would have received any way in the case of paid-for downloads, or as a bonus for free applications. Each application will qualify for a maximum payout of up to $25,000 for paid applications and $5,000 for free applications.

Sadly for developers hoping to strike it rich through the fund, Intel is planning on limiting the payouts: only 250 applications will be selected for the Fast Track, and a mere 100 for Dollars for Downloads.

Finally, Intel is using the fund to push its Intel Atom Developer Challenge - a competition aimed at getting more netbook applications on AppUp, and which originally ran until the 2nd of February. The company has now announced that it will be re-launching the competition starting on the 9th of March, with prizes including cash and netbooks for winning application developers.

Interestingly, Iannitti mentions plans for the developer fund to eventually support smartphone applications - a clue that Intel is looking to challenge rival ARM's dominance in the portable gadget sector, possibly with an ultra-low power Atom chip more suited to smartphone use.

Are you interested in the developments that could come out of this, or are you struggling to see the point for developing specifically for what is, at its heart, a low-power low-performance x86 chip? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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