Microsoft promises 500 new features in first major update to its new mobile operating system.
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Slideshow:Microsoft's Windows 7 Phone Revealed
Microsoft has completed work on a significant upgrade to Windows Phone 7 and shipped it to smartphone manufacturers, meaning the software, which adds 500 new features to Redmond's mobile operating system, could soon be in the hands of consumers and business users.
"Earlier this morning, the Windows Phone development team officially signed off on the release to manufacturing (RTM) build of 'Mango'--the latest version of the Windows Phone operating system," said Terry Myerson, Microsoft's corporate VP for Windows phone engineering, in a blog post Tuesday. "This marks the point in the development process where we hand code to our handset and mobile operating system partners to optimize Mango for their specific phone and network configurations."
On Wednesday, Japanese carrier KDDI said it would introduce a Mango-powered Windows Phone 7 device in September, built by Toshiba-Fujitsu. It's expected the Mango update will be available in the United States soon after that on the AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint networks, although Microsoft has not revealed a precise launch date. Phones for the U.S. market are built by HTC, Samsung, LG, Dell, and Microsoft's newest hardware partner, Nokia.
Mango adds a whopping 500 new features, from major improvements like multitasking to transparent back-end services.
A new feature called Threads lets users glide between text, Windows Live Messenger, and Facebook chat within the same "conversation." A feature known as Groups lets users receive and send messages from predefined social or business circles directly to and from the Smart Tiles home screen, and 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 restaurants, 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 without having to restart the app. 4G wireless support is embedded, and for security-conscious enterprise customers, Mango adds support for various rights management technologies. 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 Office 365 and Lync.
Web browsing is enhanced with native support for Internet Explorer 9, which on Windows Phone will drive hardware-accelerated graphics rendering as it does on the PC.
Windows Phone badly trails RIM, iOS, and 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, to close the gap.
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