Archive for October, 2010
AppUp – an app store for netbooks
There has been a recent trend of creating app stores and with our own interest in Meego the Intel AppUp store begged investigation. There has been a certain amount of initial criticism of the AppUp site and I have to agree that there are quite a few confusing points in the references to Moblin etc but overall I did manage to gain an understanding.
I am a developer so I started with the SDKs. First step was to download the sdk. Simple I thought, lets have a look at the one at the top (C, C++). I clicked the “Download” button and … Nothing happened. I tried again. And again. By the thirty eight’th or so attempt I noticed the little “Login Required” note so I found the little “Register” link at the top of the page and filled in a pretty small form, agreed to some terms and voila the button worked!
Then I spotted the Adobe Air Melrose SDK and thought I’d have a look at that as well. Unfortunately this was not so simple. The button at least worked thanks to my logging in initiative but instead of just downloading the SDK I was presented with another registration process. This was a pretty long winded affair including adding an organisation and members. Then completeing another long process to signup to the AppUp developer program. It was made clear that the program was free but I still had to add a paypal ID. Now, finally I was allowed to download the SDK. My immediate thought was that there was some additional licencing issue with the Air SDK but I am inclined to think that this is not the case and rather, the system is just messy.
So, the next thing to do was to look at the SDK itself. So, Start > All Programs > Intel AppUp Software Developement > ??? There is a debugger tool and some libraries. Where is the SDK?
A bit of reading later it seems that I am supposed to use Visual studio and add the SDK scripts to allow my eventual app to live in the AppUp store. I guess this provides the process that allows the DRM and distribution tracking. More than anything it is all just somewhat confusing. There is documentation but it is not immediately obvious what you are supposed to be doing.
So, what is the AppUp centre like as an app store? I downloaded the centre for Windows on my Intel Core 2 Duo laptop even though it is supposed to be targeting Intel Atoms only. Still, it installed and ran fine. My initial reaction to the design was that I did not really like the white design framework because I could not see where AppUp ended and my browser (behind AppUp) started. Also, the panels of content seemed to load very slowly. I navigated to a free game and tried to download.
“You must be registered!” It said so I registered and went back to AppUp.
“You are registered in a different country to the store you installed” it said. I couldn’t recall actually choosing a country but hey. “AppUp will restart in the correct country”. Ok, I thought.
A cup of tea later I decided that AppUp had probably lied to me and was not going to restart so I clicked the program again and it all ran fine. I thought I was still in the US store because all the prices were still in US dollars but no, we have now apparently joined a new global super-currency and dollars are used world-wide. Seriously, for a multi-country store to not have multiple currency support is pretty lax.
Anyway, I finally downloaded an app. Next problem – where is my app? Not on the desktop or in All Programs that’s for sure. Oh, inside AppUp Centre. Fair enough, there is a big old “Launch” button. At this point I expected to crash the app or my laptop due to the lack of atom processor but the app ran perfectly. I then spent the next hour and a half trying to figure out what clay combined with to make bricks bringing a slight pause to proceedings!
Well, sorry Intel but it is a bit of a mess. The site content isn’t as clear as it could be but it is not catastrophic. The different access requirements for different SDK versions is pretty sloppy too. Dollars in a UK store is kinda rude and I actually much prefer the design of the AppUp website to the AppUp centre itself. On the plus side the application I downloaded (Alchemy Classic) worked perfectly and was really addictive.
So, will it work?
From a developer’s point of view it does make netbook distribution pretty simple but developers only get “Up to 70%”. So it is at best the same as Apple. Unlike the Apple app store though there are a lot of ways to get apps so developers may favour other routes.
From a consumers point of view it is a bit fiddly but works ok and the apps themselves are fine.
At the end of the day I think that success depends on volumes. Loads of great apps will bring loads of consumers and vice-versa. The problem I see is that there are now a lot of app distribution routes so this dilutes the apps and the customers. Plus trends seem to suggest that the netbook market is shrinking in favour of tablets. This might mature to a hybrid situation with MeeGo but I think we will know either way in 12-18 months. However, for desktop apps I think the perfect system already exists and this is the package management system in Linux. It is just so easy to search for and download all sorts of software and I think that if this process can be modelled more closely a desktop app store actually stands a chance.
Intel, you are really not helping yourselves with the messy system you have. You give the impression of a disorganised, poorly resourced outfit and this reflects badly on the company as a whole. It should be no more than a few days work for a competent development team to straighten out the website issues and it should all be fixed by now. (Sorry but it’s true and I am saying this for your own good).