Popular iPad magazine app and Apple's iPad App of the Year Flipboard has just released a new version featuring a handful of updates, including one which has the company rethinking a user's first-time experience with the application. Now, instead of having to configure Flipboard with your favorite sources for online news, photos and other topics, a new content guide lets you immediately start browsing well-known websites formatted in an easy-to-read magazine-style layout.

Flipboard has also added built-in search, LinkedIn integration and has reformatted how the links from Twitter appear. But the company's biggest update is still yet to come.

Easier for First-Time Users

The newest release of Flipboard is more evolutionary than revolutionary. The most notable change is the improved access to finding and discovery content. In the latest version, tapping on a red ribbon at the top right of the home screen ("More") takes you into a content guide where you can delve into sections dedicated to topics like "Business," "Science & Technology," "Cool Curators," "Art & Photography" and others.

When viewing articles or posts from these sources, a new "Add" button at the top of the screen lets you mark the publication as a "Favorite" for easier access in the future.

Also new is a "Featured" section which Flipboard will use to showcase its partners, the latest addition being The Economist, which will be available at launch. Although many websites can be viewed in Flipboard, the company's partners have the ability to run magazine-style advertisements alongside their articles, formatted in a reading-friendly iPad layout, and track the visits from the application's users.

LinkedIn, Search & More

Another big update this summer release is the new LinkedIn integration. Flipboard is the first company to provide third-party access to LinkedIn Today, a news feed-like look at various industry verticals. 37 major industries are covered by LinkedIn Today, like Food & Beverage, Law and Non-Profit, for example. The end result is something like a trade magazine for following your industry's most important news.

Other updates to Flipboard include the added ability to continue flipping through a magazine or publication after reaching the last page of article, a revamped way to read articles coming from tweets (the article is now given priority while the tweet and its associated actions are moved to the bottom of the page) and the addition of a search feature that returns results for RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook updates, results from Flickr, Instagram, Google Reader and more. People search is supported as well.

There are several "behind-the-scenes" improvements, too, to make the app run faster and to offer less noticeable user interface improvements in spots.

Coming Soon: Personalized Recommendations

However, what we really wanted to know was when Flipboard would begin to capitalize on the technology it acquired at launch through a startup once known as Ellerdale.

The answer is that Flipboard has already done so. And we'll see more of that technology soon, according to Flipboard co-founder and CEO Mike McCue.

Ellerdale's smart data-parsing algorithms are currently used in the app's search feature and for deriving what's popular on its network, but Ellerdale's technology will be even further baked into the product in the near future.

Will this just be a series of incremental updates, like what we've seen so far? Or does Flipboard have an even bigger launch on the horizon? Both, says McCue. The product will get smarter over time, as new versions are released. But another update, which McCue says is "coming pretty soon" will offer an even better personalized experience involving recommendations.

In the meantime, Flipboard's next big focus is its iPad app, due to arrive later this summer. Versions for Android or other platforms aren't out of the question, but the company hasn't reached any solid conclusions on that front.

The new version of Flipboard is now live in iTunes here and is a free download.