SINGAPORE--Microsoft today released Windows Phone 7.5 operating system (OS), codenamed Mango, which focuses on making devices more socially connected and better catering to users' needs such as multitasking. This addressing of the platform's "inadequacies" has gotten the thumbs-up from Taiwanese phonemaker HTC, with an executive expressing confidence that Windows Phone will give its competitors "a run for their money".
John Fernandes, director of marketing and operations at Microsoft Singapore, noted that since the launch of Windows Phone 7 in October last year, the platform has made "good progress" here and the company also "learnt a lot" from consumers' feedback. As such, many of the major improvements and new features in Windows Phone 7.5--among over 500 changes--are centered on the idea of "connecting with people", he said.
The Redmond executive, speaking at the launch event held here Wednesday, cited the "People" tile as an example of its development focus. With this tile, users can now have one-touch access to Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn without having to search and launch these apps individually.
In terms of enterprise capabilities, the software giant has also extended Microsoft Lync--its unified communications suite--to Outlook Mobile and Office Mobile for better collaboration on-the-go. Security was another priority, with new features such as support for information rights management, malware-protected Explorer 9 Mobile and secure data transmission through 128/256-bit SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption integrated into the new OS.
The improvements and "addressing of inadequacies" by the OS maker have earned praise from handset partner HTC. According to Melvin Chua, country manager of Singapore at HTC, the company has received "positive feedback" since it launched its first Windows Phone 7 devices last year.
The executive, who was invited to speak at the launch, revealed to ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of the event that phones powered by Microsoft's mobile OS accounted for 30 percent of HTC's overall unit sales since its launch. He also expects the figure to rise in the future.
Additionally, he said that affinity for Windows Phone is growing and becoming "very strong", not just among consumers but within HTC as well. According to him, the "excitement" the Taiwanese mobile manufacturer has toward version 7.5 and future iterations of the OS is comparable to when the company first collaborated with Redmond on Windows Mobile.
"We believe that Windows Phone 7 will eventually be better than other platforms and will give Android a run for its money," Chua said.
Gartner had stated in August that Apple's iOS and Android are current clear winners in the smartphone ecosystem, with respective market shares of 18.2 percent, and 43.4 percent. The research firm had noted in April that Windows Phone is expected to corner 19.5 percent of the mobile market in 2015, superseding iOS, but remain a distant second to Android, which is expected to have 48.8 percent share.
Developer momentum growing
With regard to building up its app ecosystem, Fernandes pointed out that there are now over 50,000 active developers for the platform and more than 30,000 apps available on the Windows Phone Marketplace.
"We have over 30,000 apps in less than a year since we launched Marketplace, making Windows Phone as one of the fastest growing mobile app marketplaces," he stated. "This is an endorsement of Microsoft's continued support of the developer communities globally as well as the proven Windows Phone developer platform.
"We expect this growth momentum of Marketplace to be stronger with the launch of Windows Phone 7.5."
Singaporean developers have contributed 750 apps and there are 500 developers here active on the platform, Fernandes added. To continue to drive awareness and interest, the executive noted that Microsoft had started two global initiatives--BizSpark and DreamSpark--to attract startups and student developers, respectively, to the platform.
Among those present at the launch, Muhammad Mulyadi bin Sazali, the hobbyist developer behind the Bus Guide and Stomp Mobile, said the addition of features such as multitasking and easy sharing across the different social networking sites did not make developing apps more complicated.
The Singapore-based developer, who has prior .Net coding experience, shared that the time needed to recompile and port Windows Mobile apps over to the new OS is about a week, in part due to the more comprehensive library of APIs (application programming interface) available with the Mango update.
Shortly before it released the platform update, Microsoft also unveiled its newly renovated Web-based Windows Phone Marketplace to allow users the option to purchase apps over the air via the browser or through Zune.
According to ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET, the marketplace is open to consumers in 35 countries. Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan are the Asia-Pacific markets that currently have access to the site.