We covered MWC 2010, of which Microsoft first revealed its plans for the Windows Phone 7 platform. A year later, Steve Ballmer took the opportunity during MWC 2011 to unveil updates like copy-and-paste functionality and Twitter integration to the Windows Phone 7 OS. Now, just a few days ago, we had a session with Microsoft to take a look at more Windows Phone 7 updates that'll be available by the end of 2011, some of which included partnerships with more manufacturers, introduction of the Skype app (unsurprisingly, given Microsoft's acquisition of the former) and Bing Vision.
Microsoft has emphasized that it will be adhering to its two-pronged strategy, which is a) putting consumers at the center and not the OS - providing them with less clutter and more clarity with a user-friendly OS and b) optimizing hardware, software and services to work together without fragmentation. So without further ado, here's the lowdown on what's new in Windows Phone 7 Mango:
Microsoft will center its attention on its People Hub, this time adding Twitter and Linkedin integration on top of a previously Facebook-centric service. There will be a comprehensive History tab which will detail activities with contacts in your phone list, including emails, voice calls, and SMSes. Facebook and Windows Live Messenger chat services have also been integrated within, and works in tandem with the usual text messaging service to reach out to your contacts who aren't available on both services.
Additional to that, a Group tab will be introduced as well, allowing users to reduce clutter and filter accordingly to your favorite or important contacts. This can be tiled on the main page for easy access. But more importantly, this tile will duly reflect any form of communications or updates from members within that particular group. Furthermore, group chats are also made possible through the Windows Live Messenger integration.
Microsoft also intends to refine the Facebook integration by syncing their existing Calendar services with Facebook events and birthdays. Beyond that, conflicting calendars will also be a prominent feature within this update. Incoming invites that clashes with your existing calendars will be reflected, and prompts you towards your calendar to check your schedule.
While more calendar support has been added to the Mango update, Microsoft did mention that multiple calendars from one account, such as Google, is not available in the Mango update.
Threaded emails have been a default feature for more mature mobile OSes such as Apple iOS and Google Android. In the Mango update, Windows Phone 7 users will be able to view emails in a similar fashion. Multiple emails can be linked into one inbox while you can also separate your Outlook account from the said personal emails. This is a departure from how iOS bundles everything under one roof, while Android hasn't been actively consolidating multiple Google accounts under one inbox (perhaps for the sake of account differentiation).
Likewise, multi-tasking has been an option available for the earlier mentioned OSes, with Microsoft being the last to provide this on their new mobile OS. The new multi-tasking feature on Windows Phone 7 Mango resembles a tile system, showing a series of cards that presents the thumbnails of the apps that are running in the background.
As for its limitation, Microsoft has stated that this will be based on the memory availability. As such, memory hogging apps will significantly reduce the number of tiles that will be shown in the multi-tasking feature.
Apps have always played a big part in any mobile OS updates, and that's the same for the Windows Phone 7 Mango update. As Microsoft woos more developers into the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, they've also made a series of updates for its live tiles, making it more dynamic. New apps like Skype and automatic face detection services for easy tagging of photos will also be introduced in the Mango update.
Contextual apps will be prominently featured in the Mango update too, dubbed as App Connect. For example, within the Music and Video hub, we also notice the appearance of apps that are related to the multimedia hub. According to Microsoft, this is easily achieved for developers who wish to associate their apps to specific functions of the Windows Phone 7 platform, by inserting just a single line in the XML code. Silverlight, which was previously mentioned as part of the Mango update, is now integrated within the apps for richer multimedia content support.
To futureproof its mobile OS, HTML5 support is included within the Mango update. Its web browser is also built upon Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 browser, and we did notice a few changes in the placement of its address bar and settings within the new web browser.
Another major addition is the included Bing Vision service. Similar to Google Goggles, the service handles visual searches, identifies the context and brings up relevant apps. Local Scout works in tandem with Microsoft's Bing service, bringing nearby points of interest to your search results. However, these services are region subjective, meaning specific regions might not receive these particular features when the Mango update arrives.
SkyDrive, as we've mentioned earlier, will become a much needed feature on the Mango update. With the addition of this cloud storage service on the Windows Phone 7 platform, users can access their online content easily. In fact, should you run out of the 25GB storage capacity, you can link another Windows Live account to your device, thus increasing the potential online storage space. The only caveat here, is that there is a file size limit of 50MB within SkyDrive.
Microsoft has promised that the remaining of the 500+ new features will be comprehensively covered in the upcoming weeks.The company also has more up its sleeve when it comes to the hardware side of things. While Microsoft has had prominent partnerships with major manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, and LG, the company has also made mention that more is to come with new partners like Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE.
Of course, Nokia is still well in the picture, with a formal announcement - on the same day no less - that the first Nokia Windows Phone 7 smartphone will come with the Mango update. The updated features (late as they are) and the additional hardware partners do make a strong case for Windows Phone 7. Of course, it is all relative, given how the new Microsoft mobile OS hasn't exactly gotten off to a good start with its partners admitting that it could have done better.
According to Microsoft, the Windows Phone 7 Mango update will go live sometime in Q4 2011, and it will be applicable for its existing and upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices.