The app. It was one of the buzz words of 2010. It has redefined how we enjoy electronic entertainment. Of course, the app in 2010 was mostly relegated to the smartphone, and those who had one could enjoy brilliant titles like Tap Tap Revenge and the current pig-wrecking juggernaut that is Angry Birds. Apps weren’t all fun and games, of course. We used them to sort out our social, personal and work lives, too, with apps for banking, Facebook, the stock market, news; pick any interest and there was probably an app for it. Those who didn’t have smartphones lost out on the myriad new pieces of software that were making lives easier and more fun by the day. Until now, that is.
Intel’s AppUp Center is one of the first App Stores made to bring the joy and utility of applications to tablets, netbooks and PCs. It was originally designed to bring apps to netbooks and tablets running Intel’s Linux OS, Moblin v2.1, for Atom-based devices, but also works to bring apps to any PC or laptop running Windows XP or Windows 7.
Installing the AppUp Center is easy enough. When you create an account (which you need to do to download any app), you are asked to provide billing information, but it isn’t necessary if you’re just going to be downloading free apps. Once billing information is stored, though, buying apps is a simple, one click procedure similar to iTunes. There was a rumor floating around that the AppUp Center did not accept debit cards as a form of payment, but this proved to be untrue. Apps can be paid for via credit or debit card. Another nice feature is the 24 hour trial period that holds for every single paid app; you can “return” anything you purchase within 24 hours for a full refund. Digital Rights Management (DRM) does rear its ugly head, in the same way as iTunes: you are limited to installing the same app on only five different devices per one account. Downloading the app on your other devices, under one account, is free after purchasing the app initially.
The presentation of the AppUp Center is clean and easy to navigate. It has all the standard app store fixings: several app categories, staff recommendations, hottest apps, newest releases, and a large graphic at the top reserved for a five app rotation of featured apps. The window for the AppUp Center itself can’t be resized, and only takes up about half the screen (I was using a 17” Sony VAIO), which is a bit odd, but doesn’t really affect functionality in any way. The apps all run independently of AppUp, so this isn’t an issue that extends to actually using what you bought. Apps run smoothly enough, though this doesn’t have much to do with the AppUp Center; it’s purely a store, not a platform.
Applications are downloaded externally, rather than from within the AppUp Center, as it is in iTunes. This means that applications are downloaded directly to your machine, including separate shortcuts for each app on your desktop. If you aren’t a fan of clutter, you might not like this, but the convenience of not having to open AppUp to use an app is pretty nice. Of course, apps can be initialized and uninstalled within AppUp under the My Apps tab, too. You can share your favorites with friends, but this feature feels a bit dated; you can only do so via email, and there is no social networking support as of yet.
The app selection is limited to the thousands for now, but figures to grow as the AppUp Center becomes more well known. As mentioned before, the physics phenomenon that is Angry Birds is available for $4.99 (last week, Intel offered Angry Birds for free for the first 16,000 downloads, or until March; unsurprisingly, all 16,000 are already gone). Another gem is Fashion Solitaire. The classic card game gets a (much needed) makeover, as you use decks to deck out models in the hottest fashions, using your fashion knowledge to mix and match different outfits. Not impressed by the clothes provided? You can design your own, too. Oh, and there’s some solitaire gameplay in there somewhere. But it’s not just all fun and games inside the AppUp Center, there is everything from Nook for PC (free) to Crayola Art Studio ($14.99) for kids.
The Intel AppUp Center bridges a gap that, in retrospect, probably existed longer than it should have, given the massive popularity apps have gained recently. Intel gives a solid effort, with an easy to navigate app store. The fact that the store doesn’t download apps internally is a bit annoying, but can prove to be more convenient in the long run, with one-click access to your apps possible without initializing the AppUp Center itself. The trial period is a good deal for anyone who’s ever been burned by an over-hyped, terrible app and wished they could have that $2.99 back to go towards half of a Starbucks coffee or something. By virtue of simply not having much competition in the field of apps for PCs, laptops, netbooks and tablets, the Intel AppUp Center is a worthy download for anyone looking to get apps on their non-smartphone devices, offering apps actually created with those devices in mind.
Please note, that in accordance to the FTC Guidelines and WOMMA Code of Ethics, I am disclosing that Intel Corporation has covered my travel, accommodations and costs related to our visit to MWC 2011.