Web apps are great when you're on your PC, but they require a browser. Mobile apps, on the other hand, require nothing but a smartphone, but are not very convenient to use while working on your computer. So why choose? A new platform called Cubiez (currently in public beta) offers the best of both worlds: Light and responsive apps that feel almost like mobile ones, don't require a browse, and run on your computer. Very similar to the better-known Pokki, Cubiez is an online marketplace for apps through which you install and then run a variety of apps.
Cubiez is fairly new in its field, and therefore doesn't offer many apps yet. While its biggest rival Pokki includes hundreds of different apps, Cubiez has only a few dozen at the moment. There's no way to view Cubiez apps online, but you can check them all out by installing Cubiez and clicking on its taskbar icon. You can look at all available apps, only new apps, or apps you have installed. There is no way to view apps by category, but since not many apps are available, this doesn't make much of a difference.
Cubiez sits on the leftmost side of your taskbarright next to the Start button (if you still have one)and each app you install adds an icon on the taskbar as well. This is nice at first, but when you've installed seven apps, it starts to get crowded, and there's no way to put Cubiez to sleep or collapse all the icons into one. Installing apps is a breeze: After choosing an app from the marketplace and clicking the install button, you can't even count to five before the app is installed and available for use. Cubiez and its apps are all highly responsive, and there were no unexplained lags, sluggishness or unresponsiveness in any that I've tried.
Of all the apps Cubiez offers, about half are games. Among these, you'll find some big names such as Kingdom Rush, Little Alchemy, and Plants vs. Zombies, some classics such as Pacman, and some super-addictive ones such as Unicorn Robot Attack. Aside from games, you'll find useful apps such as Calculator, Facebook, Google Maps, Google Search, NewsHub (an RSS reader), and Weather. If you're looking for a specific app, you can use the search box to find it quickly, but note that search strings are case sensitive, so searching for "facebook" will yield no results. The apps all run in a small window that can be moved around the screen, but cannot be resized.
Looking closely at some of the apps, I found that while they're all generally good, some are still somewhat lacking in features. The Facebook app, for example, is a great take on a Facebook client, with a News Feed, birthdays and events calendar, a photos tab, an inbox, and a notification area. Some actions, such as comments and likes, can be done straight from the app, while others, such as writing a message or viewing a friend's profile, send you to your browser. The app even includes badge and pop-up notifications, but it doesn't manage to refresh properly, and keeps showing old updates when there are in fact newer ones to be seen. The Weather app can only show one location at a time and doesn't let you save locations, and the RSS reader includes a tiny number of publications, which, combined with an inaccurate search feature, forces you to enter the exact feed URL for almost any website you want to add.
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