In preparation for the rollout of the "Mango" operating system update for existing Windows Phone users which is expected this week -- mostly likely starting on September 27 -- Microsoft officials are laying the groundwork.
The Windows Phone NZ site broke the news on September 26 that Microsoft apparently would allow developers working with the near-final Mango bits to move straight to the Mango release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version of the operating system. Microsoft officials confirmed the news -- via a Tweet -- a number of hours later.
Microsoft originally had told developers to make multiple copies of their "NoDo" operating system and data because they would have to roll back to NoDo in order to get the RTM version of Mango from their carriers. Microsoft delivered the RTM bits to handset makers and carriers in late July for their testing.
Last week, Microsoft officials said that carriers around the world would begin rolling out Mango in the next week or two. They also said to watch for Microsoft to begin updating again the "Where's My Windows Phone Update" site so that existing Windows Phone users can track where their carriers are in the update-delivery process.
Several sites are reporting that here in the U.S. that AT&T could begin rolling out Mango to existing Windows Phone users starting on September 27. (I've heard no word about Verizon's update plan, nor when Verizon will add more Windows Phones to its stable. For now, Verizon still offers only one Windows Phone, the HTC Trophy 7.
Update: Some sites are reporting that Verizon might start rolling out the Mango update on September 27, too. I have to say I'm skeptical, but hoping my skepticism is misplaced.
Will there be much of a difference between the near-final Mango bits and the RTM bits? Microsoft officials have been coy when asked. There have been a couple of features, like tethering support, which have been unearthed in recent months but that are not currently supported in the Mango developer release.
Announcements by various handset makers of ew phones preloaded with Mango have been trickling out over the past few weeks. Most of these new phones are expected to begin shipping starting in October.
Mango (Windows Phone OS 7.1) includes an HTML5-compliant IE 9 Mobile browser; third-party application multitasking; Twitter integration; and Windows Live Messenger integration, new Bing search capabilities and other new features. All eyes will be on Microsoft and its partners to see if they can more quickly and completely get Mango out to customers after the ongoing problems that plagued the NoDo operating system refresh.
Update No. 2: Just in case it's not clear, even though Microsoft is making it easy for those who got the Mango bits on their phones by various means, the company is still not advocating that users jailbreak their phones. The official word: “We encourage people to use their Windows Phone as supplied by the manufacturer to ensure the best possible user experience. Attempting to unlock a device could void the warranty, disable phone functionality, interrupt access to Windows Phone 7 services or render the phone permanently unusable.” That said, it seems those who got access to the developer version (7712) WP Mango bits "by whatever means necessary" should be OK in moving straight to the final Mango release.
As of the morning of September 27, Microsoft had updated its "Where's My Windows Phone" status page to show that all U.S. carriers except Sprint are now in the "scheduling" stage for the Mango update. (Sprint is still "testing," according to the page.) This stage can take up to 10 days and is followed by a staggered "delivering" stage that may last several weeks. Outside the U.S., all carriers (except Telefonica in Spain) are in the "scheduling" stage for all handset models. Update: Microsoft changed the "scheduling" status to "delivering" for almost every handset and carrier a couple of hours after the new status page was posted.
Microsoft is advising users to update their Zune client software to 4.8 to prepare for the rollout.
As of September 27, Microsoft also has "Mango-ized" and rebranded its WindowsPhone.com portal, launched a Web-based version of its Windows Phone Marketplace and added a new check-in application based on Bing, called Scrapbook.