features developers will appreciate, like multi-tasking and programmatic access to the phone's hardware; consumer-facing features like turn-by-turn navigation and built-in barcode scanning; as well as features for business users, like conversation views in email and mobile access to documents. In total, over 500 new features are due to arrive in Mango, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced earlier this week.This morning in New York, Microsoft held a VIP Preview event showcasing the next major release of its Windows Phone mobile operating system (OS), known by its code name, "Mango." The press conference, intended for media and analysts, comes on the heels of a string of updates about the next-gen version of Windows Phone. These included
What's New in Mango
Much of what was revealed today was a summary of what we already knew, but instead of the information being doled out piecemeal at separate Microsoft events, like MIX 11 and TechEd, as it was earlier this year, it was presented in aggregate.
The different types of updates were pooled into three main areas: communications, apps and the Internet. Under each of these, the following features were highlighted:
- Threads. Switch between text, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation.
- Groups. Group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see the latest status updates right from the Start Screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to the whole group.
- Deeper social network integration. Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now integrated into contact cards, and "Mango" includes built-in Facebook check-ins and new face detection software that makes it easier to quickly tag photos and post to the Web.
- Linked inbox. See multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Conversations are organized to make it easy to stay on top of the latest mail.
- Hands-free messaging. Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting.
- App Connect. By connecting apps to search results and deepening their integration with Windows Phone Hubs, including Music and Video and Pictures, "Mango" allows apps to be surfaced when and where they make sense.
- Improved Live Tiles. Get real-time information from apps without having to open them. Live Tiles can be more dynamic and hold more information.
- Multitasking. Quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background, helping to preserve battery life and performance.
Beyond the Browser:
- Internet Explorer 9. A browser based on the powerful Internet Explorer 9 and including support for HTML5 and full hardware acceleration.
- Local Scout. Provides hyperlocal search results and recommends nearby restaurants, shopping and activities in an easy-to-use guide.
- Bing on Windows Phone. More ways to search the Web, including Bing Vision, Music Search and Voice so it's easy to discover and decide.
- Quick Cards. When searching for a product, movie, event or place, see a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps.
Demos: Speed Test, Bing and More
One standout demo from the event (which we can't wait for gadget bloggers to attempt to replicate), was a browser speed test showing the new IE9 browser beating browsers on the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
Another set of demos showed how Bing services had been integrated more deeply into handsets, offering things like voice and visual search where you only had to point your phone at an object (in the demo, the Miley Cyrus autobiography!) to have the item recognized by the phone. More Bing demos involved Bing's indoor maps and its "Quick Cards" feature, described above.
Microsoft also showed off a British Airways app offering a 3D view of a plane and the upcoming Xbox Live avatars.
Mango's Future Detailed & Developer Tools Released
Microsoft's mobile head Andy Lees took time this morning to talk about Windows Phone's momentum and its future. Currently, there are over 18,000 Windows Phone apps, he noted, before announcing the release of the Mango developer tools, which launch sometime today (in beta). The new software development kit offers over 1,500 APIs for mobile app makers to play with, says Nokia, who jointly announced the launch of Windows Phone examples for developers on its Forum.Nokia Projects site. Nokia says it will also help its developers "make the most of the apps they already have in Nokia's application store" - in other words, it will help them port apps to Windows Phone.
Mango documentation is available here on MSDN, which confirms that it's Windows Phone 7.1, not 7.5, as previously reported on one of Microsoft's own Web properties.
While not directly addressing the reports of Windows Phone 7's under-performance to date, Lees revealed that Mango's addressable market will be 4 times larger than that of Windows Phone 7. Much of this will be due to the impact Microsoft's partnership with Nokia will have on the mobile ecosystem, clearly. He also announced more hardware partners, including Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE, will join current partners Samsung, LG and HTC, to offer more handset choice and more price points.
Offhandedly, Lees mentioned that Microsoft already has Nokia-branded Windows Phones running in its labs. (Oh, don't tease us!)
Mango is still on track for an early fall launch and will be available as a free update to existing Windows Phone owners.