In November, we chatted with Roman Karachinsky, the CEO of News360, a company that has made a number of successful mobile newsreader apps, including a version for Windows 8. Now that Microsoft's latest OS has been available for a number of months, we wanted to get Karachinsky's opinion on current app development for Windows 8, his thoughts on Windows 8.1, the closing of Google Reader and more.
First, News360 launched its Windows 8 news reader several months ago. What did the company learn about Windows 8 and making Windows 8 apps during this process?
We were actually one of the very first apps in Windows Store, back when Windows 8 was still in 'Consumer Preview' - we developed the Win8 version of News360 together with Microsoft, and it was a pretty interesting experience. Although there have been some bumps as the platform matured and changed for the production release, we are overall very big fans of the development tools and the overall process of creating apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8 - out of all the major mobile OS's it's probably the easiest to develop for. There are some limitations that the interface and the style guidance force upon you, but once you embrace the Windows 8 way of UX design, it's very refreshing and simple.
How many downloads of the News360 Windows 8 app have been recorded so far and are those numbers at or close to your expectations?
We're in the low hundreds of thousands of downloads on Win8, which isn't bad, but not spectacular for us when comparing to other platforms. Our app, as most Win8-native apps, really makes most sense on a touch-based device, and there just aren't enough of them in the wild to compete with iPads and Android tablets in our usage numbers. On desktops and conventional notebooks, where the number of devices isn't an issue, the experience is still good, but I think most users prefer the classic windows interface and don't take full advantage of Metro/Modern UI.
What sort of improvements and changes have been made to the Windows 8 app since its release?
We've done a single major update since the release, which was mostly about performance and fixing large portions of code that were written back in the Consumer Preview days and could be improved with the latest frameworks. Sounds boring, but we were able to get 3x speed improvements in some areas, which made a very big difference for the user experience.
What plans does News360 have to add to the Windows 8 app in the future?
We have a number of interesting things we're developing (on Win8 and other platforms), but I can't really talk about them yet.
Windows 8 has come under some heavy criticism since the launch and sales of new PCs have been slowing. What do you think Microsoft needs to do to help improve sales of Windows 8 PCs?
Tough question. I think that tablets are probably the bigger threat to PCs than other desktop platforms, so putting more resources into that market is what's needed. A much cheaper Surface would help, especially if they can still retain the x86 compatibility. Right now there is just no good alternative for consumers looking for a good, cheap Windows-based tablet - the RT is too slow and limited and the Pro is way too expensive.
What do you think about the changes that have been revealed for Windows 8.1 via the leaked builds on the Internet?
I think they make sense. As I said, from our experience we see that while the Modern UI interface is nice to have on the desktop, and is absolutely great on touch devices, people don't want it to be the center of the experience on conventional PCs.
Google has also been criticized for planning to end support for Google Reader. Has News360 seen an increase of users since this announcement?
Definitely, although it feels a little wrong - we were very active Google Reader users ourselves at some point, and really loved the product. Right now, though News360 is solving a very different problem from Reader - instead of giving you updates on a specific set of feeds, we're about understanding your interests and finding great content for you from source you might not even know about. That said, we are working on some features to help people migrating from Reader to News360 - you'll see them a little closer to the July 1st "dead"-line.
We would like to thank Roman for answering our questions!
Image via News360