Windows 8.1, an operating system that needs more top-notch apps, just got one: Flipboard. The personalized magazine, already available for iPad, iPhone, Android and even BlackBerry 10, has debuted on the Windows Store in a version reengineered for Microsoft’s touch-friendly Metro interface. It’s the first time that it’s been available in its entirety on a PC. (Its user-curated magazines can already be read in any web browser.)
For all the ways in which the new Flipboard has taken up the Windows 8.1 challenge — it has a Live Tile and reformats itself on the fly to look good on everything from a Surface tablet to a desktop PC with a ginormous monitor — it’s still unmistakably Flipboard. “In many ways,” Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told me, “this is a more evolved version of Flipboard than on any other platform.”
I wondered whether this version might dump the app’s distinctive page-turn effect in favor of the sort of infinite-scrolling approach that’s common in Windows 8.x content-consumption apps, which tend to let you just keep swiping to see new stuff. Nope: The page turn is still there, even though there’s no technical reason why a digital magazine must be broken up into pages like a dead-tree one. I asked McCue about it, and he explained why he thinks turning pages beats scrolling endlessly as a way to navigate words and pictures.
“There’s something so deeply human about pagination and flipping,” he told me, sounding rather passionate about the topic. “There’s a sense of narrative and surprise. Magazines have been designed with this notion of narrative for a long time — there’s a whole art and science to laying out content. We believe profoundly in that.”
“Infinite scrolling is a firehose,” McCue said. “It’s very overwhelming…some people even get a touch of motion sickness.”
More new incarnations of Flipboard are in the works: a Windows Phone app and a full-fledged, browser-based version. Once they’re available, the app — which I originally thought of as having been born to run on the iPad — will be usable on pretty much every computing device on the market. Sounds good to me.