Look, Microsoft has one tenth the apps of Android!! Yay!  (Source: Engadget)

Visual search -- pretty amazing. A grown man visual searching for Miley Cyrus -- pretty embarrassing.  (Source: Engadget)

Fujitsu and Acer are making phones? You better believe it. Along with ZTE, they're among the new crop of Windows Phone makers.  (Source: Engadget)

"Everyone wants the Mango!"  (Source: NBC/SNL)
New update brings multi-tasking, tighter Skype integration, improved input, new devices and more

Three new hardware partners; major UI improvements; OS upgrades -- Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) "Mango" is shaping up to be a killer refresh for Windows Phone.  Today at a special event the company previewed the upcoming smart phone operating system and how it hopes to finally convince customers to ditch rivals Android and iOS.

The new OS packs 500+ new features.  Want a taste?  Read on.

I. Messaging and GUI Interaction

Microsoft has clearly invested a lot of thought and effort into improving its base GUI.

The revisions start with the keyboard, which now contains word suggestions, using predictive logic based on what you typed.  No word (ha, pun) on whether the logic will be adaptive, though, to your particular writing idiosyncrasies.

Along with the improved keyboard comes improved speech to text.  Much like the feature in Android, you can now speak to your phone and it will dictate what you said in the form of text for handy use in email or text messages.  The phone will also read you text messages.  Both features work while music is playing, but dropping the music volume.

Microsoft's already rich "People" social tile has received some improvements.  You can now make "Groups" say of your college buddies or your significant other's family members, etc.  Each group will get separate pictorial updates from various feeds, including the ubiquitous Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, you can now multi-platform message.  In a single thread you can mix Facebook messages and texts.  

Similarly email has received a Facebook.  You can now select important emails as do not forward to prevent embarrassing accidents.  The email client now has an integrated calendar, which syncs automatically with the calendar in your Facebook account.

II. Apps

Microsoft showed of a number of apps, both first and third party.  It also showed off features that broadly apply to third party apps in general.

Windows Phone now allows third party tiles, visible on the front screen.  For example, British Airways showed off an app that allowed fliers to take 3D tours of their aircraft and get live updates via the app tile about flight times and more.

And multi-tasking has been added, as we predicted in our coverage yesterday.  You enter a multi-program menu that shows you preview windows that you can flip through a la cover flow.  When you reenter a program, whatever you were doing resumes.  For example, a game will pause when you window out and start up again when you window in (so be prepared).

The app show began with the Pictures tile/app, Microsoft's first party design.  Facebook auto-tagging and uploading has been added.  Windows Phone Senior Project Manager Derek Snyder also showed off a fully functional mobile version of Office opening spreadsheets.

Integration with recent acquisition Skype was also promised.

Microsoft also showed off a working build of Internet Explorer 9 Mobile, which in a live test beat the stock browsers from Google Inc. (GOOG) (though they used a handset with Android 2.2, not the latest Android 2.3), Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) in an HTML5 benchmark, Speed Reading.

Via a feature called "App Connect", the snazzy new browser can also pass off info into apps like, say, movie search results into the IMDB app.  Searches in Bing, as before, are location aware.  Maps looked particularly impressive in IE9m, with searches by business type and reviews of the results all neatly integrated in.

Another impressive feature is Visual Search.  Visual Search lets you take a picture of something and have Bing automatically search for it based on image and text recognition technology.  Mr. Snyder searched for Miley Cyrus (hey, we're not judging).

Microsoft says that its app library now includes 18,000 apps.  That's not bad, but it's still a far cry from the 200,000+ Android apps and the 350,000 some iPhone/iPad apps.

III. Hardware Partners

Despite rocky early months (Windows Mobile is currently outselling Windows Phone 7), hardware providers appear to be sticking by Microsoft.

It announced that South Korea's Samsung Electronics (005930) and LG Electronics Inc. (066570), along with Taiwan's HTC Corp. (2498) are renewing their commitments to WP7.  New to the party are China's ZTE Corp. (000063), Taiwan's Acer Inc. (2353), and Japan's Fujitsu Ltd. (6702) are all jumping in as well.  Both Acer and Fujitsu have little previous phone experience.

Microsoft biggest hardware partner will be Finland's Nokia Oyj.'s (NOK), the world's largest smart phone maker.  Nokia plans to phase out its proprietary Symbian OS and replace it with Windows Phone within the next couple years.

IV. Final Details

Mango will land at the beginning of the fall, which likely means August.  That puts it narrowly before the rumored launch of the iPhone 5 (September).  Google's next great thing -- Android 3.5 "Ice Cream Sandwich" -- won't launch till sometime between October and December.

That all means that at the start of the fall Microsoft may have the phone to beat -- if anybody pays attention.

Its hardware partners are planning on new devices, and existing partners will update current customers' phones to the new OS.

Microsoft has officially dubbed "Mango" Windows Phone 7.1, contrary to prior reports that suggested it would be Windows Phone 7.5.

The company promises to release a Beta software development kit (SDK) to developers within 24 hours.  That release should fill in the gaps about the remaining additions (not all the 500 features were covered).

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki