If Windows 8 is going to take off in a way it has not yet done, it needs two kinds of apps: ones that do a fabulous job of taking advantage of its touch-friendly new Metro interface, and ones that aren’t available on other operating systems. The new Windows 8 version of location-aware social network Foursquare — which got previewed at Microsoft’s BUILD conference in June and is available in the Windows Store starting today — is both.
Oh, O.K., Foursquare is available on other operating systems. But none of its other incarnations has been designed from the ground up for use on a tablet. The closest it’s come is the Android version, which scales up gracefully on bigger-than-a-phone screens.
The new Windows 8 app is a Foursquare that’s been rethought for tablets rather than its traditional home, smartphones. You can check into local businesses — it wouldn’t be Foursquare if you couldn’t — but the emphasis is on perusing locations to find things to do. You see photos and information for nearby businesses you’ve been to before, ones that are trending, ones that have recently opened, and ones Foursquare thinks you might like based on its knowledge of factors such as where you and your friends have checked in.
(Some of this stuff only shows up if you’re signed in with your Foursquare account — but this version of the service, unlike the ones for phones, is also meant to be useful even if you don’t have an account.)
Interface-wise, Foursquare isn’t just a nicely-done Windows 8 app. It’s one of the slickest ones I’ve seen, with big, beautiful photos and information tiled together into blocks, which should make for addictive browsing. Swipe to the right, and you see information on more and more locations; swipe to the left, and you get a map with the nearest business of note plotted on it. Everything is designed to look good and work well on conventional Windows 8 laptops and desktops, including ones without touchscreens, as well as tablets.
Foursquare Vice President Holger Luedorf, who showed me the new app, said that the company will probably use it as a template when it gets around to releasing tablet-centric versions for other platforms. In the meantime, Windows 8 fans, enjoy yourselves: For once you’re getting something neat before iPad users do.