Microsoft today unveiled yet another application aimed at iOS users, with the launch of a news application that greatly resembles Apple’s own News application that comes built into iOS 9. Called “News Pro,” Microsoft’s app aims to offer readers a personalized experience by connecting them to articles that match their current interests, while also uncovering other sites and stories they may like.
The biggest two differentiators between Microsoft’s news reading app and Apple News is that Microsoft’s version is powered by Bing News, and it personalizes its interface by way of social networks. Users can sign in with either LinkedIn or Facebook in order to have the home feed update with stories that match their interests.
For example, after signing into the web version of News Pro, the keyword “TechCrunch” appeared under my interests. Oddly, though, the app didn’t immediately show me any stories from the TechCrunch website, which makes me think perhaps the app is a little undercooked for the time being.
On mobile, however, the app seemed to do a slightly better job. After authenticating with LinkedIn, it picked up another interest (“internet”) and then began to show me both technology news and TechCrunch stories.
A separate tab on the mobile app lets you also customize which topics and industries you want to follow, as well as which organizations and products you want to track. But this tab is divided into two sections, “Browse” and the oddly named “Pilot” – the latter which appears to offer the ability to toggle off or on the same topic choices as on Browse, but here they are laid out in a grid format using small thumbnail images.
It’s not clear why there are two different sections focused on customizing the app’s content.
Users can like and comment on stories in the app, which also sets it apart from Apple News. (Apple’s app only allows for liking by clicking on hearts.)
However, one feature Microsoft’s news app offers that’s really handy is its “Speedy Mode” option. This presents a stripped down, quick-to-load version of the news article in question. If you’re at all familiar with the popular app SmartNews on iOS, the feature will look strikingly similar.
Maybe too similar, in fact – it even presents the Speedy Mode option with a nearly identical green arrow you tap on to change modes. Yikes!
Top: News Pro; Below: SmartNews
Unfortunately for Microsoft, nothing about this new app comes across as truly unique, and in some cases, it looks like it’s trying to directly clone its competitors. That “me too” feel makes it less compelling than others in the space, which is disappointing. There are so many opportunities to deliver re-imagined and compelling takes on mobile news reading today, but Microsoft’s News Pro is simply rehashing what others have already done.
The app is the latest project from Microsoft’s internal incubator, Microsoft Garage, which is home to a variety of oddball projects ranging from Android launchers to the most annoying alarm clock ever. In other words, it’s not something Microsoft is backing as heavily as it is Office, Outlook for mobile, or even that new Microsoft Selfie app that’s making the rounds. Instead, Garage projects are more like spaghetti thrown at the wall to see what sticks.
News Pro is a free download on iTunes.
(h/t, image credits: microsoft-news.com)