Softpedia Interview: Ezra Nanes on AccuWeather and Windows 8

Here's how AccuWeather's product manager sees the Windows 8 app developing process

There’s no doubt that AccuWeather is one of the most popular weather apps out there and the huge number of downloads on all platforms speaks for itself.

Now that Windows 8 is generally available, the company behind AccuWeather has decided to port its application for Microsoft’s latest operating system, in an effort supposed to allow users to get weather forecasts and an overwhelming amount of information right in the Modern UI.

Although Microsoft is offering its very own Bing weather app, many Windows 8 adopters actually prefer AccuWeather, so it’s no surprise that the app currently has a total of 469 ratings in the Store.

To get a better overview of the features offered by AccuWeather for Windows 8, but also to learn more about the app developing process for the new Microsoft OS, we sit down with Ezra Nanes, product manager, Mobile Applications, AccuWeather, Inc.

Softpedia: Please introduce yourself to our readers and talk a bit about your role in the development of AccuWeather.

Ezra Nanes: Hello everyone! My name is Ezra Nanes, and I am the Product Manager for AccuWeather's Windows and Windows Phone mobile applications. My job is to know what our Windows apps can be and what they should be and to ensure that they become just that.

My primary objective over the past several months has been to see that we have the best possible app on the Windows 8 Store. I am constantly thinking about how we can optimize for performance, refine features for utility and ease of use and grow the app through the addition of new features and capabilities.

Softpedia: AccuWeather is already a top product on many other platforms, so what are your expectations on the Windows 8 version?

Ezra Nanes: We're excited about it! We think our Windows 8 app will take its place alongside our iOS and Android applications as the essential, go-to weather app on its platform.

Softpedia: Microsoft is constantly calling for developers to create apps for Windows 8. How would you describe the app development process on this new platform?

Ezra Nanes: Like any new platform there are challenges to being first or being an early adopter. (Of course, there are also advantages.) The community of developers with deep experience on the platform is of necessity smaller, and so there are fewer places to go to bounce ideas and look for solutions.

However, what we've found in working on Windows 8 is that Microsoft is a very supportive development partner. Microsoft knows that the success of Windows 8 depends in large part on its ability to attract developers, lots and lots of developers. To this end, Microsoft is doing a lot to make Windows 8 a developer-friendly environment. This starts with people.

Softpedia: AccuWeather is undoubtedly a five-star product and millions of users are already using the app on a daily basis. Do you think the app will enjoy a similar success on Windows 8 too?

Ezra Nanes: Thank you for the acknowledgment! And to answer your question: Yes! At the heart of all of our applications and properties - whether it is Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, Android, RIMM, www, print, TV, radio, enterprise applications - is our precise weather data.

People choose the AccuWeather app because they know they are getting the best forecast available. That said, there is more to a great app than simply data. We have a terrific User-Experience/Design team here, and spend a lot of time working out how we can deliver the most engaging experience with the greatest level of utility.

Softpedia: Isn’t the built-in weather app lowering your chances of attracting more users?

Ezra Nanes: Not at all. (AccuWeather is actually one of the providers of weather data for the Bing Weather app! You can see where the data comes from in the "About" link in settings.)

The thing is, app discovery takes time. Microsoft has been really thoughtful with their preloaded suite of applications. They've made it possible to turn on your new Windows 8 device and get going right away. Sort of a gateway experience. Some people will be perfectly happy with Bing Weather, but Windows 8 is all about personalization, and the primary means for accomplishing this is through apps.

Most users will want to explore the Windows 8 Store and discover incredible apps like AccuWeather for Windows 8. So, the fact that users are introduced to the idea of checking the weather with an app on their new tablet or ultrabook is wonderful and only helps us in the long run.

Softpedia: Do you have any improvements in mind for future versions of AccuWeather?

Ezra Nanes: We've broken new ground with our realistic weather animations. We've taken the weather and made it the star of the show. We've got an incredibly rich experience in place already and we're only scratching the surface (pun intended) of what we can accomplish. So look for more animations.

Also, cross device integration. Microsoft has made this much easier for us to accomplish. In time our Windows Phone and Windows 8 applications will be two parts of a holistic weather experience. Also, sharing. Still working this out. How can we enhance the utility and fun of our applications through social and other forms of sharing.

One more thing – content. We've got incredible editorial and video content that we produce in house here at AccuWeather. We are always looking for ways to refine the processes that deliver that content to users so that they are presented with the stories and features that are most relevant and compelling to them.

Softpedia: How important is a live tile for a Windows 8 app? Some apps use static titles, but users clearly prefer the live ones, such as AccuWeather’s.

Ezra Nanes: Live tiles are one of the defining features of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. They are a true differentiator for the platform. Apart from the infinite personalization they enable they are a fantastic way to (here's my new favorite word again) SURFACE relevant content.

As a provider of essential weather information and data we love live tiles. We allow users to pin multiple locations, maps and their customizable My AccuWeather lifestyle forecasts. At a glance, you can see what's happening wherever it matters to you and with a single tap access a greatly expanded forecast for your chosen location.

Softpedia: Analysts believe that Windows 8’s success depends on the number of apps available in the Windows Store and some suggest that at least 5,000 apps were needed at launch. How do you comment on this statement?

Ezra Nanes: Well, sure big numbers are impressive, and they help create buzz, but it’s not just volume its quality. And even more, its availability of the essentials.

Softpedia: Do you have any advice for developers who are now making their first steps in the world of Windows 8 apps?

Ezra Nanes: Go for it!! Go to developer conferences such as //build/. Get to know people at Microsoft. Become a part of the community. And don't be afraid to push the envelope.

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