Times To Go

The New York Times has released the first public beta of the Times Reader, a Windows-based application that displays content from NYTimes.com in a more dynamic, interactive manner.

The Times co-developed the Reader with Microsoft . While the Times Reader will run just fine on a desktop PC, the Times  is aiming for the mobile market, road warriors and commuters used to carrying around a laptop.

It uses RSS to download the newsfeed in the background and then formats the content on the screen along with ads, which are linked back to the advertiser or to microsites that can be connected to the ad.

Times Reader is built on the .Net Framework 3.0, in particular, the Windows Presentation Foundation. This display library allows for more advanced formatting and displaying of text, graphics and other content on the screen.

Ebooks have not fared well in the market, despite years of efforts from hardware OEMs and publishers. But Rob Larson, vice president of product management and development for NYTimes.com, thinks there is mass appeal for reading on the road.

“The trick with Times Reader is it’s a combination of software and hardware. I think with the software we’ve really created a significantly improved reading experience on the screen, and in the user testing we’ve done, it’s very apparent people prefer this reading experience,” he said.

Times Reader makes full use of the Web by linking to images and other articles in the Times archives. Reader is also smart enough to know when the user is connected to the Internet, so if they are connected, links within an article will appear. If the user is not connected, the links don’t show up.

For expedience, the Times’ goal was to have the reader download all of its content in under a minute, which it has achieved for all papers but the Sunday paper, which has significantly more content.

The Times is targeting February 2007 for final release. It will be available on Windows XP and Vista and will provide the same experience on both platforms, said Larson.

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