There are a ton of free news apps available for Windows 8, including Microsoft's own Bing News. However, there are some developers out there who believe there is a market for a good news aggregator app for Windows 8. One of them is News360, which recently launched their own Windows 8 app. We got a chance to ask the CEO of News360, Roman Karachinsky, about this new app and about Windows 8 app development in general.
First, what can you tell us about your programming background in general?
Before developing the idea for News360, I was a product director at Medialogia, a real-time media monitoring and analysis system, where I developed a platform for creating tailored reputation analysis and news monitoring solutions for top executives and government officials in Russia. The success of that project was what initially started me and Nina (the other co-founder of News360) on the idea of using semantic analysis and personalization to solve a problem for a larger consumer audience.
How did the idea for News360 come about?
News360 was inspired by the content overload dilemma we encounter every day. We wanted to mitigate the anxiety many people have about missing out on the news and provide an easy, convenient one-stop shop for anyone’s news needs by aiming to be the best personal filter possible. Our goal is to connect our users with content that is personally relevant and provides a perfectly balanced news diet, combining a daily dose of major headlines about the news you need to know with stories you want based on your specific hobbies and niche interests, so you never feel out of the loop.
When you first heard about Windows 8 and the Windows Store, what was your first reaction?
We embraced it. While everyone else was holding their breath for the release of the new iPad, we were focusing our efforts in a very different direction: optimizing our app for the Windows 8 consumer preview. This isn't to say we didn't approach this opportunity with caution. We'd built for the Windows 7 phone and certainly weren't blown away by the reception. But it looks like Microsoft might finally be gaining ground in the mobile platform wars and we're big fans of their new UI, so we decided to give it a second chance, and we're happy we did.
How hard was it to develop News360 with the Windows 8 touch screen UI in mind?
The hard part was figuring out how to adapt our UI to Metro without losing the overall recognizability and cohesion of the product. Because Metro is so minimalistic, it actually places may more constraints on the design of the apps than iOS or Android. But once we wrapped our heads around it, the actual development was fairly quick and easy, the frameworks are very thought out, and the development tools are very good (especially for a 1.0 release).
Overall, what makes News360 stand out from other news reader apps?
We often get lumped into the same category as Flipboard and Zite, which makes sense, but only to a point. Because we're not Flipboard – we don't just package your social feed and favorite publications up into a pretty bow. And we're not Zite – we let you fine tune your news down to the very specific topics that interest you most. For example, we let you edit your Science category to keep tabs on your obsession with space travel, but scrap the stories about health or genetics, if those don’t happen to strike your fancy. And unlike the others, we focus on keeping our users well-informed by providing a perfectly balanced news diet, streaming headlines about major world news alongside articles on your personal hobbies and interests. Achieving this balance ensures that you are broadening your horizons and learning rather than just being entertained, which is central to News360's consumer value.
Another differentiator is that while we use input from your social networks to serve you news, we don't just rely on social. News360 recognizes that sometimes you want to discover topics and sources outside of your regular bubble, so we've tailored our advanced algorithm to introduce you to new stories you might not be exposed to otherwise, but love nonetheless.
Overall, are there any tricks to making a touch screen based Windows 8 app or game compared to making a regular PC app?
It's a completely different ball game – the development is much more similar to developing for iOS (or Windows Phone, to pick something closer to home) than it is for desktop Windows. The fact that people might be using your Metro app with their mouse rather than your fingers is something you constantly have to keep in mind, and it's actually a little frustrating, since it's very difficult to accommodate both the touch and mouse users.
What plans do you have about adding to News360 in future updates?
We have tons of great new features we're working on, but you'll have to wait and see what they are – all I can tell you is that we're working on ways of bringing more of the content you're connected to and making sure that you're seeing all the things you really care about, without all the noise.
How do you feel about some of the comments made by other developers that feel that the Windows Store and Windows 8 are making the PC more of a closed system?
It's the truth, but that's the price you need to pay to have a high-quality app store experience – it has to be curated. You can still develop Windows apps and distribute them outside the Windows Store, so it's not as much of an issue as it is on other platforms, but I think all platforms will continue moving in this direction.
Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Windows 8 and its launch?
As I said previously, we're pretty excited about Windows 8. It's launching into a very tough market, but I think it really has a chance to establish itself as a major player – if Microsoft gets the app ecosystem right and positions the products right. So far, there's been a few missteps (like the WinRT/Win8 confusion), and there is a fair chance that the tablet side of Windows 8 will share the destiny of Windows Phone, but we're certainly hopeful.
We would like to thank Roman for answering our questions!
Image via News360