Microsoft on Tuesday previewed the highly-anticipated upgrade to its Windows Phone (News - Alert) 7 mobile software. Codenamed "Mango," the next mobile OS will include 500 new features, including more comprehensive integration with chatting services and social networking sites.
The update takes a "people-centric" approach to communications, and builds on Windows' mission to make mobile phones more intuitive, Andy Lees, President of Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Mobile Communications Business, said during a media event in New York on Tuesday.
Mango will feature "tight" integration with Facebook (News - Alert) and video calling client Skype, which Microsoft recently purchased for $8.5 million. As expected, the software will be loaded with Internet Explorer 9, which Microsoft claims is faster than competing browsers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Other key additions to the mobile phone software include an update to its People Hub app, an all-in-one contacts lists that will enable users to connect with their family and friends through Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, LinkedIn and Windows Live messenger.
The People Hub feature is part of Microsoft's overall strategy to integrate mobile applications directly into its Windows Phone 7 OS. This allows users to see real-time information – like tweets, posts or IM chats – without ever having to launch the application.
“Think of your applications as musical instruments,” Lees said. “With Mango, they finally become part of an orchestra, with a conductor. With Windows Phone 7, applications are alive as part of the total experience.”
Lees added that Windows Phone Marketplace now boasts a lineup of around 18,000 applications, putting it more in line with competing app destinations operated by Google and Apple.
In addition to greater application integration, the software update will include an improved Xbox gaming hub and a cloud storage service called Skydrive.
Mango will be launched in new handsets sometime this fall, and will be rolled out to existing users before then, according to the AP. However, Microsoft has yet to identify an expected date for the launch.
The software giant also announced that Acer, Fujitsu (News - Alert) and ZTE have all signed on as new partners. The three companies will join Microsoft's existing stable of handset manufacturers, which includes Samsung, HTC and LG.
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Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell