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Microsoft lists new features in Windows Phone 7 Mango

Barry de la Rosa
25 May 2011
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New handset manufacturers, better app integration and multi-tasking

Microsoft held a global press conference yesterday to talk about the next version of Windows Phone 7, codenamed "Mango", and to announce the release of the beta version of the developers tools.

It also announced three new hardware partners - Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE - but there were no announcements regarding new phones, and no firm dates announced. Microsoft promised the new operating system and new phones would be available in "early fall" this year.

Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone Marketing, Achim Berg, told a gathering of journalists and developers that Mango was a "major release" in which communications, apps and the web were the primary focus. Berg claimed that Mango will be the first mobile operating system to aggregate communications across a variety of services, such as Facebook, SMS and email. It also introduces multi-tasking, which Berg claimed would help increase battery life.

The new update would see apps become more integrated with the operating system, for example with the ability for apps to create new "live tiles" on the phone's home screen, or the ability to pass searches on to specialty apps from within other apps - for example, the ability to search for a film on IMDB when looking for cinemas in a listings app. Berg was keen to show off Local Scout, a search tool that used the phone's GPS chip to provide search results that were more relevant to your current location.

WP7 "Mango" local scout

Berg claimed that the version of Internet Explorer 9 on the phone would be exactly the same as IE9 on the PC, using the same code. He showed a demo (from Microsoft's developer site) that rendered a series of HTML5 graphics in less time than on an iPhone using Apple's Safari browser. Mango will bring hardware acceleration to phones, so that certain HTML5 operations can be sped up by using the phone's graphics chip.

WP7 "Mango" browser

Berg claimed wide support for 3rd party services, although so far only Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn support have been announced. Of course, WP7 also ties in with Microsoft's properties, such as Office 365, SkyDrive and Windows Live. A new "Groups" interface lets you create groups of contacts, and Mango will then automatically aggregate communications across a number of services for these contacts.

WP7 "Mango" groups

Windows Phone 7 certainly has a well-designed interface, but as with most Microsoft products, it only works the way Microsoft wants it to work, as evidenced by the way apps take a back seat to the operating system. Far from being pioneering, most of the features in WP7 can be found on other phones, for example in HTC's Sense for Android, which aggregates your contacts, calendars and communications amongst a larger number of services.

In addition, apps on Android can already import their contacts, updates and events into the phone's primary stores - for example, the last.fm app lets you import your last.fm friends into the phone's main Contacts database. Moreover, Android app developers don't need special permission to get at these functions, whereas Microsoft's developer evangelist, Brandon Watson, told us that services that wanted to be integrated in Windows Phone 7 would have to enter into an agreement with Microsoft.

Our overwhelming impression from the press conference was that Microsoft is living in a bubble in which it has just invented the smartphone. Sadly, the world already owns either an iPhone or an Android phone, and only those tied into a Microsoft-reliant corporate ecosystem will find any of Mango's new features revolutionary.

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