Microsoft Max is just beautiful, even ZDNet loves it. The designers did a beautiful job with the User Interface and features for photo sharing and RSS Newsreading. You can download Max here. Michael Arrington likes Max too.
Microsoft Max started out as a photo viewer and sharing service exactly one year ago. Today Max has added an RSS News Reader that presents in a beautiful newspaper layout. They have also added support for .Net Framework 3.0, which will load automatically if you don't already have it.
The News Reader part of Max works and looks great. However, there are a few missing features which I am sure will be added in the next release.
First, Max needs to import/export OPML. This is critical to anyone who is already reading many RSS feeds. Adding feeds is relatively easy but it takes a lot of time to replicate your blog roll from an existing reader. Feeds are arranged alphabetically.
Second, Max arranges the feeds in a newspaper layout, four posts per page, and appears to take the first 250 characters of each post. My feed is set to deliver the full post, not an excerpt, but Max by default only takes the first 250 characters and provides a link back to my blog for the rest. This was probably done to maintain the newspaper look and feel. Hmmm... the screen shot from the Max team shows seven posts arranged in a very different way, so there are obviously some options that I haven't yet discovered. Funny thing is...there is no Options menu to set anything.
Third, Max needs to indicate which posts have been read versus unread. Max doesn't work like a standard news reader deleting individual posts. It also does not automatically scan for new entries or notify you that new feeds have arrived. It does have a manual Refresh button that will retrieve any new posts. These are easy feature additions and I am confident the Max team will add them soon.
Microsoft Max and Windows Live Writer provide a glimpse into the new design sensitivity at Microsoft. They also represent a new "fast to market" development model that is more like the Web 2.0 startups approach. Great to see Microsoft adapting and delivering great new products.