Pulse Launches Web-Based Version to Focus on Desktop Readers

Pulse, the news aggregator and content discovery app which originally debuted on iPad and later followed up with iPhone and Android versions, today unveiled its brand new web-based version aimed at desktop users. The Pulse website offers the same ability to read and browse content culled from readers’ favorite publishers and social networks that the mobile versions provide, and also has a few new features specifically focused on desktop users.

Not least among them is a brand new, overhauled design that takes advantage of some of the latest web technologies to offer a highly-adaptable, dynamic interface with elements that update in real-time, making it feel like a native app. The effect is even more pronounced on Windows 8 devices, however, since Pulse worked together with Microsoft to take advantage of the hardware acceleration features available to web apps via Internet Explorer 10. The app is clearly also designed to show well on Windows 8 tablets, with support for multi-touch gestures and scrolling built-in, too.

It may seem a little strange for Pulse to be pushing the Windows angle so hard when it got its start on Apple’s software ecosystem, but CEO Akshay Kothari explained in an interview that what IE10 allowed them to do with a web-based product simply surpassed the other options out there, in terms of making something that was designed for touch but also not a native app.

“We’ve worked very closely with Microsoft to make this extremely fluid on IE10 on Windows Tablets,” he said. “I actually didn’t believe the Microsoft strategy for a long time, but when you play with this, you realize the HTML5 platform and the power of it. It feels very much like a native app, and there’s a lot of gestural stuff that’s really interesting as well.” For example, a two-finger swipe calls up the Pulse reading pane, and the chromeless approach taken in IE10 really does make it feel like locally running software in practice.

That said, Pulse isn’t designed exclusively with Microsoft devices in mind. Even without the hardware acceleration features offered by Microsoft’s upcoming browser, Pulse feels very app-like in Chrome, Firefox and other browsers on other operating systems, too. It organizes content slightly differently from its mobile counterparts, making scrolling vertical rather than horizontal, and presenting a new type of view that organizes content hierarchically based on its popularity, making more popular content appear larger in a user’s feed. That variation not only breaks up the visual space, but also makes it easy to see at a glance what content is trending.

Pulse on the web also lays the groundwork for a time when Kothari sees other browser makers beyond Microsoft providing developers with similar tools for better mimicking a native app experience. He said that he anticipates others will follow the lead set by IE10, meaning that in future, anyone using Pulse on the web on tablets can expect a similarly high-quality experience, even if Pulse doesn’t necessarily support whatever platforms may come with a native offering.

For Kothari, this new web tool represents a major step for the company, but also just the beginning of what’s possible. He says that Pulse has still really been in the process of laying the pipes for its platform, in terms of its long-term vision, and gave BetaKit some insight into where it might be headed next.

“Once this is out the door, we have a solid platform to do really interesting things here,” he said. “You can imagine in the future Pulse really tapping into social interaction. There are tons of ideas around social we have that we’ve been kind of holding them back, like what we really want to do is create an experience that we can control, in terms of it’s not a widget or an iFrame… you can imagine a situation where you’re in Starbucks and you save a story on Pulse, and you come on to your computer at home and you can actually read it right there.”

The Pulse web presence clearly wasn’t built as an afterthought, and should actually help the company pick up new users in addition to giving existing ones another place to read. But with Windows 8’s launch right around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see how many new users it can pick up from that market, and how much an early bet on MS-based web tech really pays off.

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