Based on Windows Vista technology, the applet offers a fairly seamless push/pull technology for reading content and getting updates.
The press release says: "Hearst is identifying opportunities across its brands – including within its other newspapers and magazines – to leverage this innovative new platform for publishing and distributing content and advertising."
(Susan's translation of the above quote: We don't know what else to do with this thing yet, but our advertisers are so hot for space on our web pages, we hope we can sell them the reader as well.)
On one hand, the idea of a tool that lets you download and store content offline is all good; on the other, the care this branch of the Hearst team is taking to preserve a print experience is, well, irritating--and most likely based on a fairly narrow idea of what kinds of advertisers they can attract and what kinds of ads they'll pay to place.
The Vista developer is quoted saying: "The most compelling piece for publishers is this notion of displaying paginated content on-screen. Consumers can read that content like a print newspaper or a magazine, from section to section and from story to story, and navigate using a simple user interface."
To me, this is such a publisher-controlled, top down approach to packaging and delivering content that it seems positively 1998-ish.
How about the ability to splice feeds a la Yahoo Pipes, package up content, and splice everything together?
Why does it not surprise me that a big print publisher would not try to lead by signing up to support that?
Can't they just get over the print paradigm and the fat ad money and margins it represents and move on to digital advertising?