The New York Times Reader - technically simple, conceptually spectacular

The New York Times Reader - technically simple, conceptually spectacular

Summary: Richard MacManus, one of my fellow bloggers here on ZDNet has some RIA eye candy in the form of screenshots of the New York Times Reader that is being built on Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation. He was able to take the reader out for a spin at the Microsoft TechEd conference in Auckland (those Kiwis have all the fun).

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TOPICS: Apps
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nyt_reader.jpgRichard MacManus, one of my fellow bloggers here on ZDNet has some RIA eye candy in the form of screenshots of the New York Times Reader that is being built on Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation. He was able to take the reader out for a spin at the Microsoft TechEd conference in Auckland (those Kiwis have all the fun).

I've been watching the New York Times reader, because I think it's a very interesting application. Technically, it isn't all that sophisticated. In fact, I think it will end up being one of the more plain WPF applications that we see. Conceptually however, it shows off exactly what a Rich Internet Application should be.

Online/Offline. With the reader, you can both view the content while you're connect, AND take it with you. In the world of constant wi-fi that is Silicon Valley, this may not seem important, but for air travelers and others in more remote areas, this makes brining an electronic copy of the times with you very easy.

Experience. There seem to be few things more simplistically elegant than reading a newspaper. It's something we've all done, it can be associated with our commute, lazy Sunday mornings, or even our parents - it evokes emotion. The Times reader provides that kind of simple elegance, and seems to be a good technological jump for the way we read newspapers.

Branding. The brand of The New York Times is a pretty important one, and the reader enables them to make the application look exactly how they want it. They don't have to worry about how it is going to look on other browsers, or hack around ancient browser DOMs to enable their brand - it just appears. From both a marketing and development perspective, this is the holy grail.

Cross Platform. Okay, well maybe it doesn't cover all the important parts. [Update] Before I get skewered, I found this quote on the New York Times' First Look blog:

 

 

One of the most frequently asked questions we have received since April is, “Will Times Reader be available on the Mac?” The answer is yes. Microsoft has an initiative called Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere which will port the technology to the Mac, Linux and mobile devices. We intend to build a version of Times Reader to run on those platforms when they become available.

 

This is such a fantastic example of truly old media adopting the newest of the new. I think Microsoft was right on in getting the NYT to agree to helping out with the reader. As I mentioned above, this is a very simple application, but you really can't get much simpler than reading the newspaper. This is going to be a great RIA.

Topic: Apps

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16 comments
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  • Very Nice

    What would be great, is if templates in Expression and Visual Studio could be provided, so that news organizations and blogging services could rapidly adopt this technology, and allow users to view their content through these new RIAs. I certainly believe this will cause blogging and news publishing technologies to rapidly advance, and people will get a chance to see how much the web browser has actually held back Internet applications.
    P. Douglas
    • Mouth.Insert( Money )

      [i]I certainly believe this will cause blogging and news publishing technologies to rapidly advance, and people will get a chance to see how much the web browser has actually held back Internet applications.[/i]

      Hey! Great idea. I'm sure that MS would be glad to help ZD prove their point.

      Can we expect that next week this blog will be WPF-only?
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Many companies will have several front ends, and common back ends

        What many companies will be doing, is having web services that spit out data to which ever front end people use. Therefore Zdnet could e.g. (I?m not saying that it will) continue with its web site, but also have RIAs, and have both these front ends fed by underlying web services.
        P. Douglas
        • That sounds very economical

          [i]Therefore Zdnet could e.g. (I?m not saying that it will) continue with its web site, but also have RIAs, and have both these front ends fed by underlying web services.[/i]

          I'm sure that will be a great comfort to the accounting department. Just think -- you can multiply the amount of software required to serve up content, multiply the number of servers required, multiply the number of developers required, the number of tools required for development, etc.

          All to push out the same content you do today with (admittedly shoddy) CSS.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Actually, it is

            [i]I'm sure that will be a great comfort to the accounting department. Just think -- you can multiply the amount of software required to serve up content, multiply the number of servers required, multiply the number of developers required, the number of tools required for development, etc.[/i]

            The idea is to have a common set of web services feeding out data to one or more front ends. Therefore the back end won?t get multiplied ? only the front end will. Now if having RIAs in addition to its web site will increase and better retain its readership, I see nothing wrong with Zdnet or other news organizations opting to include RIAs in their businesses ? particularly if the returns from RIAs, far exceed their cost. (Remember also, RIAs will be generally cheaper to develop than web sites.)
            P. Douglas
          • Help me understand

            [i]The idea is to have a common set of web services feeding out data to one or more front ends.[/i]

            So when I want to refer someone to content on ZD, I don't just hand them a URL any more. I tell them to go <somewhere> to get the ZD app, get their sysadmin to install it [1], then light it up and (following navigational instructions I provide) go to the material in question.

            If they don't have support for the same front-end I use, I go back to find which ones are available for them, lather, rinse, repeat.

            That, or I can retype in the same information. Decisions, decisions.

            [i]Now if having RIAs in addition to its web site will increase and better retain its readership, I see nothing wrong with Zdnet or other news organizations opting to include RIAs in their businesses ? particularly if the returns from RIAs, far exceed their cost.[/i]

            The stories I keep hearing aren't "in addition to," they're "replacing."

            Otherwise, any "easier to develop" case for the NYT evaporates.

            [i]Remember also, RIAs will be generally cheaper to develop than web sites.[/i]

            Only a useful comparison if they're a replacement, and the costs of developing web sites are primarily validation -- which doesn't go away. In fact, it gets worse because you have more variables.

            [1] Always hoping that they don't end up b0rking their system with a name collision or some such.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Re: Help me understand

            [i]So when I want to refer someone to content on ZD, I don't just hand them a URL any more. I tell them to go <somewhere> to get the ZD app, get their sysadmin to install it [1], then light it up and (following navigational instructions I provide) go to the material in question.

            If they don't have support for the same front-end I use, I go back to find which ones are available for them, lather, rinse, repeat.

            That, or I can retype in the same information. Decisions, decisions.[/i]

            I'm not sure what will be done. An automated process could exist in which e.g. someone provides a link reference / address to the article in the reader. Someone could click on the link (e.g. in an email); the server could look to see if the client has the RIA installed; if the RIA is installed, a instance of the RIA could be brought up with the article appearing in it. If the RIA is not installed; the server could display a browser resident version of the RIA (which does not get installed on clients), with the content in it. If either scenario is not possible, the server could spit out a plain HTML version of the article. Therefore you could have the server follow a series of rules to ensure it dishes out the content in the best manner possible.

            [i]The stories I keep hearing aren't "in addition to," they're "replacing."[/i]

            I believe for the most part, RIAs will be augmenting (not replacing) web sites.
            P. Douglas
  • You're not making your point

    I'm not seeing anything that you don't get with CSS and a browser cache.

    As for cross-platform, I'm reminded of the old saying "you can't eat a promised sandwich."

    Apple's done some prett brain-dead things before, so I can't swear that they won't invest in handing Microsoft another lock-in. On the other hand, it's a pretty safe bet that any Linux implementation will only happen if WPF becomes a can't-read-slashdot-without-it feature.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Nice Times Reader Demo

    [url=http://firstlook.nytimes.com/?p=20]This site[/url] takes you to an announcement of the Times Reader beta. It includes [url=http://www.microsoft.com/winme/0605/27748/ASNE_MBR.asx]this link[/url] to a video presentation in which the Times Reader is demonstrated. (The actual demo is about 30 minutes into the video, so you can click on Windows Media Player around that point to get to the demo right away.) This is the fullest demo of the Times Reader I have seen. It shows how much better RIAs are than browsers.
    P. Douglas
    • Perfect example, indeed

      Oops -- doesn't open.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Sorry ...

        ... the video opens into WMP for me.
        P. Douglas
        • Um, yes, but some of us

          do use other operating systems.
          ebrke
          • I think that was Mr. Douglas' point

            Basically, "Ball you Jack, I've got mine."
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Have you tried ...

            ... doing a search to see what programs out there can play MS .asx files on your OS?
            P. Douglas
          • It's not the ascii ASX file

            <ASX Version="3.0"><ENTRY><REF HREF="mms://wm.microsoft.com/ms/msnse/0605/27748/ASNE_MBR.wmv" /></ENTRY></ASX>

            It's the Microsoft streaming engine. MS is quite fussy about who gets to read their streams.

            As I say, it's a perfect example.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Such commitment

    And so it begins . . . we have a technology where there is a
    promise of x-platform capabilities - and we know the Mac WPF/
    E has been demoed - but not what the x-platorm capabilities
    are.

    There is certainly no commitment from MS to create a Linux
    version. The statement on the Times passes the portability buck
    right back to Microsoft, rather than the decision to use a single-
    platform technology from a supplier with a poor track record in
    the x-platform field.

    And that is the big advantage of Flash / Flashlite - Adobe has no
    vested interest in their being a different experience on different
    platforms (other than the general computer/mobile split).

    Still that is probably how the game will go - companies with
    development teams already comfortable with MS technologies
    will embrace WPF, continuing to repeat the '95% is good enough'
    mantra, which will in turn hold back the development of devices
    like Sony's Mylo, just as console based browsing has been held
    back - because the perception is that these devices don't work,
    rather than sites being broken.
    JulesLt