The Sky News app found in the Windows Store is the poster child for Metro-style Windows app design. Metro is undeniably a great-looking environment and the Sky News app fits in nicely: all cascading live square tiles and shiny black background, with simple slidey navigation. It's made for use on a Windows 8 tablet or even smartphone, but desktop users may find that they prefer the Sky News website.
Open Sky News for Windows 8 and you launch an opening splash page comprising eight photo tiles arranged in two rows of four. Each represents a major news story, in most cases with a photo of the protagonists. Beneath each image is the headline of that story. Click into the either the image or the headline and you get the full story - albeit in most cases a suitably cut down version of the 'full' story. See all: Windows app reviews.
Sky News for Windows 8: live TV
Often the story is accompanied by a video news report, the one that will be used on the Sky News TV station. Should you wish to simply watch the live Sky News TV channel, that option is there, too. It worked beautifully over Wi-Fi on our Windows tablet.
Everything is beautifully laid out, shiny black finish and bright white text. The videos played seemlessly on our Samsung Series 7 Slate. The quality of content is a given: for all that Sky is to the UK what Fox is to the US (ie: a little right wing and more than a little bombastic) it is news service the volume and credibility of which only the BBC can really challenge. And Sky News and Sky Sports are the indisputed kings of slick presentation of factual material. (See also: Windows 8: the complete guide.)
Sky News for Windows 8: customisation
Unusually for a Windows 8 app, there are no real options within the Sky News app. Slide your finger down from the top or up from the bottom and you get only one option: Refresh. Naturally, this updates what stories are visible, but it hardly represents customisation which is disappointing in an app.
But perhaps we are getting spoilt, or missing the point - in Sky News for Windows 8's case, this is surely simplicity. This app doesn't need many options. Navigation is taken care of simply by swiping sideways from Top Stories, through Sky News in Video, UK News, World News, Politics, Business News, Showbiz, Sport and Strange!
This is a simple way of getting about what Sky considers the most important stories of the hour, but on our Samsung Slate the side-swiping mechanism often caused us to accidentally bring up the Charms bar when swiping right, or jump back to the previous app when going left. What can I say, I'm a vigorous swiper? This is clearly more of a Samsung Slate/Windows 8 problem than anything wrong with the app itself, but it is irritating.
Sky News for Windows 8: sharing
As is the case with virtually all Windows 8 apps you can share content via the Share Charm, in the Charm bar, which sits under your right thumb on touchscreen devices, and in the top corner if you are mousing. There are no native sharing capabilities in Windows 8 - each app can see all others, and you share via the social apps you have installed. It's a very neat system - what Microsoft describes as a contract between software and user: regardless of what app you use, you will find all your personal sharing options in the same place. Given that Mail and People are native apps, you can always share via email. In our case because we had already installed Tweetro and FotoEditor, we could also share stories that way. Useful, but again more about Windows 8 than Sky's app (which is no criticism).
I recently attended an event at which Microsoft showed off its favoured aspects of Windows 8. The Sky News app was held up as a good example of the way Microsoft wants Windows 8 apps to look and feel. It's indisputably stylish, although the lack of options make it little more than a cut-down website. And given that one of the reasons it looks so good is the lack of advertising, it poses some interesting questions about the viability of free information apps on Windows 8.