Intel's AppUp Center Could Enhance Netbooks and Mobile Devices
Yesterday, at Intel's CES keynote, Paul Otellini unveiled the AppUp Center, similar to the iTunes App Store but geared toward netbooks and MIDs (Mobile Internet Device). While our friends at Engadget were busy wondering "why you would need an app store for a Windows netbook," and while The Register was inexplicably declaring that Intel was reinventing software sales, we were mulling over the implications of the new app outlet.
Why?Consumers like applications. And as great as Web-based applications like Google Docs and Meebo might be, they're still not popular with your average Joe. The problem with software applications, though, lies in the fact that netbooks just don't have enough horsepower to run very many apps without suffering hair-pulling slowdowns. Intel's solution is to create a marketplace specifically for lightweight applications. As an added bonus, since the apps have to be validated by Intel (hopefully with less stringent standards than the notoriously iron-fisted Apple), users can worry less about malware.
Leveling the Playing FieldThe new AppUp Center apps will also be cross-platform, meaning that they can run on a Windows-based netbook or a Linux-based MID. This is important since the low-powered devices can struggle with Windows 7, and since many consumers are reluctant to embrace Linux and its unfamiliar applications. Intel is also using AppUp to lay the groundwork for Atom- and Linux-powered smartphones. By the time the processors become low-powered enough to be jammed into a handset, Intel hopes it will have built a sizable catalog of applications capable of running on its Moblin (or any other) Linux platform.
How Could it Go Wrong?Our one concern is that Intel may sabotage AppUp before it has a chance to truly come into its own. Otellini posited expanding the AppUp Center to cover laptops, desktops, and even "smart TVs" so that users could have the same experience across various platforms. The problem is that TV widgets, full desktop applications, and lightweight netbook apps present vastly different usage scenarios, and trying to unite the experience may be a recipe for disaster. What works on a desktop will likely be too complex for controlling with a TV remote, and what works as a widget may seem frustratingly restrictive on a netbook.
The AppUp center could be what pushes netbooks and MIDs over the cliff -- from niche browsing tool to viable computing platform. It's entirely possible -- so long as Intel can get developers on board, and so long as it doesn't complicate matters by trying to support too many devices.