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SweetLabs Thinks It Can Make Crapware a Little Less Crappy

It has a more dynamic system that can serve up custom app recommendations.

Sweet Labs

One of the ways that PC and phone makers try to squeak by in a razor-thin hardware business is to install a bunch of third-party apps, generating a few extra dollars of revenue from software makers eager for eyeballs.

The problem is that such software, often called crapware, doesn’t really meet the needs of consumers. It’s loaded months ahead of time and not tailored to the individual.

SweetLabs thinks it has a better option for device makers. It has created a system that can dynamically install software just as a device is being set up. On Friday it is announcing its App Install Platform — a combination of a network of app makers willing to pay for installs, a Web-based console and the analytics to show how things are going.

Even world-class hardware makers are struggling against the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Apple.

“The thing they all have in common is content and services strategy,” said Chester Ng, the company’s chief marketing officer, in an interview. “The device makers are going to die unless they have a content and services strategy.”

Because they only have one chance to make money, device makers often install dozens of apps on devices.

“It’s a bit of a spray-and-pray approach,” Ng said. “They don’t think in terms of lifetime value. Amazon thinks this way. Google thinks this way.”

Ng says his company’s approach, which includes a widget that can remain on the device and be branded by the device maker, could allow device makers to continue to get money over time.

SweetLabs got its start on the PC side with Pokki, a marketplace that gained attention for a Windows 8 app that filled in for the old Start menu.

Ng said that the biggest thing that Pokki did was allow SweetLabs to start partnering with the hardware makers.

“They face much bigger problems than a start menu,” Ng said. “They have some fundamental business problems.”

With Pokki, SweetLabs had deals with Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba. Ng isn’t naming any customers yet for the new App Install Platform but said it should start showing up on Android devices later this year.

The company is up to about 70 employees and has raised a total of $21.5 million in funding from Google Ventures, Intel Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners.

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