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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addresses a crowd of developers in Japan.  (Source: Microsoft)
Update could be a game changer for Microsoft in war against Android, iOS

At a keynote at the 2011 Japanese Microsoft Developers Forum today, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer had exciting news for smartphone fans.  He announced some of the first known details about the company's next major release of its Windows Phone OS, Windows Phone 7.5.

I. Everybody Loves the Mango?

Mr. Ballmer says the upcoming OS, codenamed "Mango", is part of Microsoft's vision of "transforming the future of communications."

The chief executive admits that it's been a struggle over the last couple years for the prominent OS maker, but promises great things to come.  Mr. Ballmer comments, "We came to market with Windows Phone a year later than I wish we had, shame on us.  But we're moving forward very actively.  We launched Windows Phone last November, we've done a set of upgrades, we have a release that will come to market later this year in Japan.  Not only is it a release that is much more global, but we've added over 500 new features to Windows Phone."

"We have a big launch event to talk about the next release of Windows Phone tomorrow, so that information will be forthcoming, including some of the particulars about who is going to be building Windows Phones and which carriers are going to be offering them here in Japan."

Details about what "Mango" might hold haven't been specified, yet, but it's pretty easy to guess some of the items that may be on the menu.  Microsoft has long promised opening up multi-tasking for all third-party apps, pending a future update.  And Microsoft also promised connectivity with the popular Kinect motion sensor and Mobile Internet Explorer 9, a much-improved mobile browser.

Other improvements could be hardware dependent, such as Near Field Communications (NFC) technologies for wireless billing.  Rival Google Inc. (GOOG) has been pushing NFC particularly hard with its industry-leading Android platform.

Tie-ins with recent acquisition Skype, including video-chat services could be on the agenda, as well.

II. Windows Phone 7 Sees Poor Sales

Microsoft finds itself in a slightly curious position, in terms of sales.  On the one hand, its current sales are rather abysmal.  Of the approximately 100.8 million smart phones sold in Q1 2011, only 1.6 million were Windows Phone 7 handsets, according to a report by market research firm Gartner, Inc. (IT).

Microsoft is actually selling more Windows Mobile handsets than Windows Phone 7 handsets.  In Q1 2011 it sold 2.1 million Windows Mobile handsets, thanks to its drastically reduced prices on the phones, in an attempt to clear the way for Windows Phone 7.

On the other hand, the world's largest phone maker, Finland's Nokia Oyj. (NOK), has a deal with Microsoft to phase out Symbian OS and replace it with Windows Phone 7 over the next couple years.  If Microsoft can pull off a smooth transition, that move could catapult the company to second place in global phone sales, ahead of Apple, Inc. (AAPL).

Thus the future of Windows Phone 7 -- much like its upcoming update -- remains an enigma.

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Lots of potential
By themaster08 on 5/23/2011 3:22:05 PM , Rating: 2
It's nice to see Microsoft fulfilling the potential of an excellent product.

The Mango update will put Windows Phone on par, if not ahead of iOS and Android in terms of functionality and features.

The Nokia partnership will compliment Windows Phone with excellent navigation services, industry leading build quality and hardware design, the best smartphone cameras, global availability, an entire wealth of developer support and a huge fanbase, amongst other things.

I just hope that Windows Phone sees mass adoption over the coming years, it deserves it.

RE: Lots of potential
By Luticus on 5/23/2011 3:26:54 PM , Rating: 2
On the one hand, its current sales are rather abysmal.

I think that windows phone 7 looks like a good os and while there are a few problems that i have with it i'm still holding out for it above both apple and android. apple is to controlling and with android i have major privacy concerns. that said.... here's a hint about why your sales suck: Get on Verizon. Verizon pisses me off, but they are the best, and area a huge market that microsoft is missing out on right now. I'm with verizon and i won't swith for a win phone 7 device but i'm not going to cave and buy something else either.

RE: Lots of potential
By kleinma on 5/23/2011 3:49:29 PM , Rating: 2
Verizon will have its first Win7 phone in 3 days

It isn't exactly a killer phone, but it is a start. I am going to wait for a 4G with newer hardware specs to get a Win7 phone on Verizon, but I def want one. Especially if I can get a good data share plan since I have a Droid X already on my second line.

RE: Lots of potential
By themaster08 on 5/23/2011 3:58:31 PM , Rating: 2
I own an LG Optimus 7, and it's the best phone I've ever owned. If you're content with your current phone I would recommend holding out from buying a Windows Phone until the Mango update. Its shortcomings are a minor annoyance, but the updates are an assurance that my annoyances will be short lived.

I have high hopes for Mango. Whilst the NoDo update didn't fair particularly well with Samsung owners, I experienced no problems, and it has made the operating system slightly faster and absolutely rock stable. Microsoft's commitment to the platform is apparent, and I feel I have found the right platform for me.

RE: Lots of potential
By DanNeely on 5/23/2011 4:52:15 PM , Rating: 2
Current WP7 marketshare is no worse than android marketshare at the same point in time after its launch.

RE: Lots of potential
By mcnabney on 5/23/2011 5:16:01 PM , Rating: 2
Not true.

There are plenty of WP7 phones manufactured by several companies that run on numerous networks. They are still only selling little more than 1% of the current sales numbers. As soon as Android got off of a single bad device on the smallest network sales exploded.

Face it, the market doesn't want MS disrupting a nice and competitive marketplace.

RE: Lots of potential
By themaster08 on 5/23/2011 5:22:06 PM , Rating: 3
Face it, the market doesn't want MS disrupting a nice and competitive marketplace.
Why? Just because you say so? I happen to think Windows Phone is the best platform. I've tried Android, and it shares all of the same traits as Symbian, and look where that ended.

MS have something that is worthy of significant market share. Somehting original. Something competitive. Why would you want to disgregard the competition because of your own preferences?

RE: Lots of potential
By lecanard on 5/23/2011 5:08:43 PM , Rating: 2
I suspect my next phone will be a Windows phone. I have an iPhone 4 so by the time I need to upgrade, the windows phone platform should be mature with updates like mango and beyond.

RE: Lots of potential
By TakinYourPoints on 5/23/2011 8:08:21 PM , Rating: 2
I completely agree. Windows Phone 7 is the first real legit competition to iOS from a user and UI performance standpoint. It deserves to do well, certainly better than Android which is still a mess.

The fact that Windows Mobile 6 still sells better than WP7 is appalling though, wtf

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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