"Today is just the start," said Eric Hautala, Windows Phone general manager. Hautala said Microsoft plans to release Windows 7.5 "Mango" gradually, but that most users will be able to get the software within four weeks. Current Windows Phone 7 users will receive a notification when the update is available for them to install, Hautala said. "It could be a few weeks before an update message for Windows Phone 7.5 appears on your phone."
Hautala said that Microsoft will release Mango to about 10% of all Windows Phone users this week. "If everything looks good, we'll open up the spigot a bit more--to around 25%. We'll hold there for one or two weeks, then quickly ramp up to 100%--monitoring quality the entire way."
Hautala said that delivering the Windows Phone 7.5 update is complex because Microsoft has to deliver not only the new OS, but also firmware that helps it connect with handsets made by a number of manufacturers. HTC, Samsung, Dell, and LG all make Windows Phone devices for the U.S. market. Nokia is slated to introduce Windows Phones later this year or early next.
[ Microsoft also is updating its Windows PC operating system. Take a visual tour of Microsoft's new desktop ]
Mango adds 500 new features, from major improvements like multitasking to numerous, transparent back-end services, according to Microsoft. "It's about making it more effective and useful for people and the people you care about most," said Paul Bryan, Microsoft's senior director for Windows Phone product management.
A feature called Threads lets users glide between text, Windows Live Messenger, and Facebook chat within the same "conversation." Groups lets users receive and send messages from predefined social or business circles directly to and from the Smart Tiles home screen. Contact Cards have been enhanced to include feeds from Twitter and LinkedIn, in addition to the networks they previously supported. Local Scout, which is integrated with Bing, yields hyper-local search results for dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Mango also adds long-awaited multitasking, which lets users move freely between applications and pick up and resume where they left off. 4G wireless support is embedded, and for security-conscious enterprise customers, Mango adds support for Exchange-based rights-management rules. For example, it lets authorized users open emails tagged with restrictions such as "do not forward" or "do not copy." Additionally, it beefs up integration with authoring and collaboration tools like Lync and Office 365.
Web browsing is enhanced with native support for Internet Explorer 9, which on Windows Phone 7 will drive hardware-accelerated graphics rendering as it does on the PC.
With a share of just under 6%, Microsoft's mobile Windows products significantly trail RIM BlackBerry, Apple iOS, and Google Android in U.S. mobile OS shipments, according to the most recent data from comScore. Microsoft is counting on Mango, and its partnership with Nokia, which is still the world's largest handset maker in terms of unit sales, to help it gain ground.
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