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Twitter’s official Windows 8 app, released Wednesday night, couldn’t have come a better time for Microsoft.

Well, that’s not true. It could have been there on Oct. 26, when Windows 8 launched. That would have been a lot better. But at a time when the new Microsoft operating system is suffering more than its share of hard knocks, the new Twitter app appears to be an honest-to-goodness showcase of Windows 8’s features.

twitter
Horizontal scrolling in the Twitter app for Windows 8.

I’m hedging because I’ve been using the app on my Microsoft Surface tablet for a grand total of 15 minutes. But so far, Twitter for Windows 8 is proving to be a good reminder of what made me mildly optimistic about Windows 8 long ago.

Twitter has clearly gone out of its way to make the app fit well on Windows 8, and on the Surface in particular.

This is important for Microsoft because Twitter and Facebook were both conspicuously absent from the Windows 8 launch. Microsoft needs strong apps from the most popular services to help attract and keep new users. The Windows 8 People app integrates both Twitter and Facebook, but it’s not the same thing as an official app.

Now Facebook is the lone holdout of the two.

Some first impressions: Two major sections of the Twitter app, the “Discover” and “Me” tabs, use horizontal scrolling — nicely fitting the natural orientation of the Surface. (Microsoft’s tablet is ridiculously tall and skinny in portrait mode. Landscape mode is its most natural state.) Photos also look great this way.

Twitter has also taken advantage of the universal search “charm” in Windows 8 to let users quickly search for tweets and users. The app delivers notifications on the Windows 8 start screen, using the Live Tile feature. Twitter is also available as one of the services in Windows 8’s share charm, letting users share to Twitter from inside any other app.

Even though it’s an app, this is a replacement for Twitter on the web, not for a multithreaded Twitter client. The single vertically scrolling columns in the main Twitter feed and the “Connect” tab keep the app relatively simple. One advantage is that the app looks great filling 2/3 of the screen in Snap view. But Twitter junkies will need to go elsewhere to have multiple streams running by at all times.

In short, it’s Twitter customized for Windows 8, but still very recognizable as Twitter. It’s too bad we had to wait so long for it.

OK, Facebook. Your turn?

Here’s the official video introduction to the new Twitter app …

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLmN-40P_X4]

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