Microsoft updates 6 core Windows 8 apps, turning News into a Google Reader replacement

Microsoft updates 6 core Windows 8 apps, turning News into a Google Reader replacement

Announced this morning, and partially released over the night, Bing’s AppEx team has updated six core Windows 8 applications: News, Weather, Finance, Travel, Sports, and Maps. These are among the applications that are pre-installed on Windows 8, meaning that they are present on north of 60 million computers that run Microsoft’s new operating system.

Before we dive into short summaries of the feature updates, keep in mind that inside these apps is a large piece of the Windows 8 experience; assuming that consumers use what is in front of them, these applications consume a considerable portion of usage time for the average Windows 8 user. Thus, they must be first-rate, or Windows 8 as a whole suffers.

This is not the first set of updates that Microsoft has released for the stock set of Windows 8 applications, but it is among the largest wave of improvements. Now, a brief tick on each app’s set of feature bumps:

  • Maps, at last, has walking directions and transit directions. This matters as Windows 8 is designed to be a mobile-friendly operating system. Mobile-friendly directions are therefore quite useful. You can also now save “favorite places” and search for locations using information stored in the People hub.
  • Match-up information has been added to the Sports app for MLB, NBA, and the NHL. That and 29 new leagues across sports have been added. If it involves balls and points, Sports now probably has it.
  • Travel received modest updates, including what Microsoft promises to be “easy access to travel content” including finding local places of interest. I assume that Travel is one of the lesser used Windows 8 apps, so to see it receive less attention isn’t surprising.
  • Finance has been improved to better support US stock quotes to allow for real-time “tickers,” and “personal finance tools.”
  • Weather now includes improved mapping tools, with more content layers such as temperature and precipitation. If you are a snow-person, Weather will now present skiing condition information, and that sort of thing. Winter is over, so that new capability might be more important come the end of the year. If you are in China, weather support for an additional 2,500 cities is now included.
  • And finally, News is now a Google Reader replacement. Sort of. You can, according to Microsoft, add your own sources and RSS feeds, and sort your news by topics if you so desire. Sharing, the company claims, has also been bettered.

One note: While most of this should be in your Windows Store update tab now, Weather’s changes are not in fact due for a few days. Be patient.

All told, this is a strong set of updates to the user experience foundation of Windows 8. More, please.

 Top Image Credit: Dell Inc.

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