Renegade Windows App Store Pokki Lands Lenovo As Its Latest OEM Partner, Will Preload On Its PCs

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After securing Acer as its first major OEM deal, Pokki, an alternative Windows application marketplace and Start Button replacement, today secured Lenovo as its newest partner. The deal will see Pokki’s game arcade and Start Menu shipped with Lenovo machines, greatly boosting its marketshare in the PC ecosystem.

Pokki started as an application system that shipped a lightweight app experience on the desktop of PCs. It brought apps and games that resembled mobile titles to laptops and desktops. It also later built a Windows 8 experience that replaced the missing Start Button. Windows 8.1 will bring back part of that functionality.

Instead of retreating as Microsoft took away a key piece of its relevancy, Pokki has expanded its platform to include an arcade populated with titles from Zynga and others. Its deal with Lenovo expands that effort by bringing standard desktop Windows application inside its orbit, creating an application experience that rivals Microsoft’s own Windows Store on Windows 8, and builds out what was a missing element of Windows itself before app stores become normal: Where users get their applications.

Before Pokki and the Windows Store, desktop applications were bought in stores, the physical variety, or through online bazaars like Download.com. Pokki rivals both by offering a hybrid experience that will now land on Lenovo’s new personal computers.

The deal benefits Pokki, as it will ship on millions of new devices monthly,  helps Lenovo monetize through revenue sharing on incomes that stem from the arcade tool, and assists users – provided they like and use what Pokki offers – by helping them find new apps to use.

Key to Pokki’s Start Menu and arcade is an algorithm that will track user predilection, helping them find applications that fit their interests. Also, Pokki has the ability to deliver paid advertising to relevant applications, perhaps tax apps during tax season and the like. OEMs, if they want ship timely apps pre-installed with their machines in advance. If instead Pokki is installed, it can more nimbly update what applications are highlighted on its platform.

This capability is how Pokki hopes to monetize, by selling slots to developers who want their apps to have higher profile. Pokki’s parent company, Sweet Labs, also generates revenue as its OEM partners do through taking a cut of gaming incomes that are generated through the arcade.

Lenovo is the current largest PC OEM, moving more than 12 million units in the second quarter of 2013. Combined with Acer, a current partner, Pokki will now be pre-installed on nearly 19 million PCs quarterly, leaning on IDC data. This makes Pokki, over the next few quarters, a large app ecosystem for developers that wish to reach Windows users, but might not find sufficient traction with the Windows Store.

Pokki’s OEM relationships remain either fresh, or new. Therefore, the model that the company is betting on remains mostly unproven. However, if the scale of Pokki’s new inherent distribution through Lenovo and Acer can drive meaningful download volume, the marketplace could demand developer attention. Those figures, however, are too nascent to test.

In short, Pokki has landed sufficient OEM interest to prove itself.

What’s next for the firm is interesting. Pokki wants to grow past the Windows platform. This, in my view, means that it will target Android next. Given the sort of applications that Pokki accepts, they could fit in there. So, Pokki’s early Windows gambit could grant it enough momentum to land on Android and grow its volume there. Sweet Labs is one of the few companies betting first on PCs, and then on mobile.

If Pokki can extend its platform to Android, it will be among the first – though I can’t think of another, frankly – to effectively unite the desktop PC environment and mobile distribution. Pokki has always been the odd duckling in its bets. However, so far those wagers appear to be bearing out.

Securing Lenovo is a big moment for Pokki, as it grants the yet nascent app experience enough unit volume to sink, or drown. In a few months, we’ll have the numbers to see if it has succeeded.

Top Image Credit: Pete Birkinshaw