People app uses Live Tiles to notify users when they have new messages from services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Windows 8 Preview: Key Features
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Microsoft has added features to Windows 8 that will make it easier for users to quickly scan messages and alerts from all of their key business and personal accounts, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Windows 8's primary hub for unifying information from contacts, be they social or professional, is its People app. The app's corresponding Live Tile alerts users whenever there is new information from one of their connections.
"The People app in Windows 8 is a modern take on the flat contact lists of the past--it's built for the way you communicate today, and it's connected to the cloud services you already use," said Jeff Kunis, a group program manager on Microsoft's Windows Live team, in a blog post on Microsoft's Building Windows 8 site.
"The People app connects to your e-mail and social accounts, bringing together all your contacts (and what they're up to) in one convenient place," said Kunis.
The People app is an example of how, with Windows 8, Microsoft is rejecting the standard icon-based desktop in favor of the Metro interface and its Live Tiles--big, on-screen blocks that display real-time alerts from related apps. The Live Tile for People, therefore, tells users at a glance how many new e-mails, Facebook alerts, Tweets, and so on they have pending.
To accomplish this, the People app relies on Exchange ActiveSync, working in conjunction with APIs that use secure standards like OAuth and REST to connect with Facebook and other networks that expose their APIs. Connecting to external networks through the cloud means the People app "is always up to date with new friends you add," said Kunis.
"Being cloud-powered means that not only do you have an always-up-to-date copy of your contact list on your device, but that your People app tile and tiles for your pinned contacts automatically light up with the latest notifications from your social networks," Kunis wrote.
He stressed, however, that the People app does not sync Exchange data to the cloud. "This ensures that data that is governed by your employer's policies aren't even temporarily cached in a third-party data center."
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