So far, all we've seen of applications utilizing Windows 8's new user interface is what Microsoft has publicly demonstrated. But now, just 2-and-a-half weeks away from Microsoft's BUILD conference, I've managed to unearth a couple of portfolios showcasing the first Windows 8 apps to be seen in the wild by 3rd party, non-Microsoft entities -- one of them, being from USA Today. Click on the image below to view the gallery containing all the high-resolution images:
Windows 8 App Gallery
First, you have undoubtedly noticed that the USA Today Windows 8 app is being showcased inside of a tablet/slate device which contains a front-facing camera and a fair share of buttons along the edges. Though the device itself looks unfamiliar to me, perhaps one of you fine readers out there will recognize it. While I'm fairly confident this is just a mock-up image altogether, the fact that the designer has chosen to showcase the app as though it's running within Windows 8 in a tablet/slate device is rather telling of where they see the trend heading.
To note, I discovered this image within the portfolio of Robbie Dillon, Art Director at USA Today. Alongside the Windows 8 app image, Robbie says the following:
In preparation for the Windows 8 release, this app is being built to take advantage of the touch-first, native environment of Windows 8, while retaining the look and feel of the Windows Metro UI and showcasing the content of USA Today.
Clearly, USA Today is looking to get their content in front of their readers on the Windows 8 platform in app form by the time the OS launches, but since this is just a prototype for the time being, the final tile layout could very well change (though it will probably look about the same). Likewise, it's currently unclear as to if they plan on making this application available as a download from their site or from the Windows app store that Microsoft is supposed to launch around the Windows 8 RTM time frame.
Beneath the tablet/slate image is a series of five screen shots of a Windows 8 application sporting the Windows Metro UI. It appears to be a social application that's specific to traveling, including connecting with those around you, the ability to quickly sync files/contacts/information to/from your Windows Phone, and the ability to watch movies in the app. (If you haven't yet, make sure you click that image above so you can see all the images in the gallery in high resolution.)
The developer of this Windows 8 social traveling app concept is a company called Jetstream Software, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner who has the following to say about their development with Windows:
Jetstream has worked extensively with each new Microsoft Operating system long before it is released. We've been building applications on Windows 7 since early betas. By the time most companies begin development on applications for a new operating system, we've been using it daily for months. We've learned the pitfalls, what works, and most importantly what does not.
Their WPF page also has some interesting multi-touch-based applications that may or may not be early versions of Windows 8 applications.
If you're underwhelmed by what you're seeing above, trust me when I say I'm right there with you. Personally, I can see this UI getting really boring, really fast -- much like the OS X UI where everything essentially looks and feels the same, sans the core functionality of the programs you're running. Then again, perhaps all we've really seen is but a fraction of what the OS is capable of where the new UI is concerned. I'm all for clean looks and streamlined productivity, but at this point, I'm really interested in seeing just how far someone can take the Metro UI to significantly differentiate their app from all other apps utilizing the same platform.
With Microsoft's BUILD conference just around the corner, I have no doubt those answers and more are to come. Likewise, I rest assured knowing that a deluge of dynamic application demos will soon replace that of the static prototypes we're left to flesh out from a bit of Google Fu.
What do you think of Windows 8 so far? Are you looking forward to it or do you think Microsoft is being a bit too ambitious? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
-Stephen ChapmanSEO WhistleblowerRelated Windows 8 content here on ZDNet:
Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.