Microsoft Spin-Off Zumobi Launches Beta Of Content App With Zoom-Based UI

imageZumobi, the Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) spinoff formerly known as ZenZui, launched the beta version of its widget-based content browser today. The app, which is available to US users of Windows Mobile 5 and 6 devices, has an interface based on zooming: the UI features 16 “tiles”, which are essentially widgets that offer access to a particular provider’s content or service. Users can customize the tiles they have by choosing from a gallery of 80 or so on the Zumobi site, and their tiles get updated in the background, so content is stored on the device and users don’t have to wait for it to load. Developers can create their own tiles with an SDK, and beginning in 2008, they’ll be able to submit them to Zumobi’s gallery. The company also says support for BlackBerry and some J2ME devices will come in the second quarter of next year. Initial content partners include Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA), AP, and Release

Zumobi says its intention is to make it easier for users to access highly focused bits of information without having to wait for web sites to load. Of course, there are plenty of other widget platforms and RSS readers with the same goal. The point of differentiation is the UI, with Zumobi convinced that the zooming interface is the best way forward, regardless of a device’s form factor. While the app does seem to make content access relatively simple, the interface requires users to first zoom in on a 4×4 block of tiles before choosing the individual one they want to see, as one review on CNET points out, adding that the interface is highly polished, but feels overcomplicated.