Microsoft unveils 'Tango' Windows Phone update (without ever using the codename)

Microsoft unveils 'Tango' Windows Phone update (without ever using the codename)

Summary: Microsoft officials have finally started talking about Tango, the next update to the Windows Phone operating system.


I guess Microsoft has decided its Windows Phone codenames ending in "O" are no longer worthy of being named.

At the Mobile World Congress show, Microsoft officials finally began sharing bits about the next update of the Windows Phone operating system -- the thing known internally and around the Web as "Tango." But no Microsoft blog posts and none of its press materials about the coming update mention the word "Tango."

Here's what the Softies did say about the OS update that shall not be named:

  • Microsoft is positioning Tango as an update to Mango, not as an entirely new operating system release. Tango is due out in April 2012.
  • It seems that every Windows Phone -- including existing WP 7.x handsets with more on-board memory and more powerful processors -- will have the Tango update pushed to them, as one of my contacts told me recently. I've asked Microsoft if this is the case. No word back so far. However, a February 27 blog post from Vice President of Windows Phone Product Management Joe Belfiore does make it sound like this an OS update every phone will get. He said: "We also did significant engineering optimization work on the OS to deliver a great customer experience on lower cost phones. This work will be largely invisible to you." (I'm thinking "you" means all of us current Windows Phone users.)

Update: Yes, it looks like Tango is going to ALL Windows Phone users. Laptop Magazine has Microsoft Senior Product Manager Greg Sullivan confirming this and also confirming that the multiple SMS attachment feature that was rumored to be part of Tango is in there, too.

No word from Microsoft on what the OS version number of Tango will be (one rumor is 7.5.1). There's also no word from Microsoft as to whether Tango will include not just support for cheaper, lower-end phones, but also for some new features (like multiple multimedia attachments). See update above; the multiple media attachment feature is, indeed, part of the coming Tango update.

In other Windows Phone-related news, Microsoft also announced that the long-awaited Skype client for Windows Phone is now available as a beta that is downloadable from the Windows Phone Marketplace. The final version of the Skype for Windows Phone app is due in April.

Nokia announced, as expected, that it has new Lumia models coming to the high end and the low end of its Windows Phone range. The Nokia Lumia 610 running the "Tango" operating system update, is the new low end model. And there are going to be Nokia 900 models for customers outside the U.S. that make use of DC-HSPA (instead of LTE), Nokia announced today, arriving n the second quarter of this year.

Unsurprisingly -- at least to me -- Microsoft officials have said nothing publicly (nor even made vague allusions to) the follow-on to Tango, codenamed Apollo, at MWC. I am thinking it's too early for Microsoft to do so, even though the Apollo cat is out of the bag.

Update No. 2: So while it seems all Windows Phones are going to get Tango, it appears that there will be different access/experiences depending on what kind of Windows Phone you are using. From a Microsoft spokesperson:

"The new lower-cost devices (running Tango) will offer the same great core Windows Phone experiences, such as Live Tiles, People Hub, IE9 and access to more than 95% of the apps in our Marketplace. New devices built to the lower cost specification will disable some experiences like Local Scout, SkyDrive auto upload, and generic background agents, as well as reducing video support in order to ensure optimum performance of the core Windows Phone experiences."

Update No. 3: So now I'm back to wondering if there is just one Tango release or two. If you look at the exact wording of this Microsoft spokesperson's statement to me, maybe there is an update for those of us with higher-powered Windows Phones that is different from the full Tango OS for lower-powered phones. The spokesperson told me: "After the new (Tango) devices are out, we’ll start the process of working with mobile operators to bring an update to current customers, but it’ll be a few months before we have specifics on that roll out." (emphasis mine)

For more coverage of MWC, check out: CNET: Mobile World Congress 2012

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Microsoft did everything right with Tango: Let's Dance to the Windows Phone beat

    It seems like Microsoft did everything right with Tango... they didn't mention Tangoby name so as not to detract from Nokia's incredible Lumia phones and their own extensive Mango line-up.... they didn't announce the Nokia Lumia 610 ( probably part of their partnership- to allow Nokia to get some of its showbiz mojo back), because it's not very interesting for Mango users, they simply said the good features would come to their phones without them having to a thing... and finally, the incompatible apps,Microsoft was faithful to developers by allowing them to reconfigure their apps to support Tango, or simply and clearly detail that that particular app will not work on Tango....
    Perfect choice Microsoft.
    BTW, excellent "parsing" , Mary Jo... I assume since MSFT went "Sinofsky", there was quite a big of digging to get out all the relevant details...
    Amazing job, MJ, we, the Microsoft community, applaud you:)
    • As a current Win Phone user

      Hi. As one of those who stuck my neck out and went with Win Phone early, I'd like more transparency on what is in Tango; whether or not all of us are getting it; and what it will do to apps we have installed that require more memory. I understand MS may want to gloss over such details for "average consumers." But for those of us who know enough about the WP process to want to know, I think such information should be made clear. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Tango is an Important Strategic Play that may result in the IDC Predicitons

        MS-nerd leaked out that MSFT will provide a "subset" of Tango features to Mango phones... Tango is only important for the emerging markets and is primarily targeted at them, but, to my understanding, Tango will be a "bonus" of sorts for the Mango phones, providing some newer functionality

        The exciting story is the target of emerging world markets...Tango will target China ( the most populous country in the world) with sleek , affordable devices with less specs... these devices are the exciting story of Tango, a strategic play from Microsoft to gain marketshare from Apple and Google.
      • Don't go all Thurrott on us Mary Jo

        It seems to me that MS split its announcement based on audience. Terry writes in the Windows Phone Blog to provide high-level information for WP owners. Joe writes in the WP Developer Blog on specific markets being added, the specifics as to memory usage, provides estimates for developers on how many apps will be affected, notes that these developers will be contacted (it's the developers he's talking to MJ) provides assurances that apps can opt-out of low-end handsets, and releases VisualStudio updates to simulate low-end handsets. And you still complain that there's some sort of transparency issue here.

        Look at the two scenarios -- 1. Current owners don't get update and all their apps work. 2. Current owners do get update and all their apps work because all current handsets have high-end specs. The blog posts are pretty clear that only new low-end handsets will be affected. So why the Thurrott-like reaction here?
    • when all the action is around android

      one should question if M$ is still in the phone business.
      The Linux Geek
      • Oh... Please

        Microsoft just fired the Windows Phone President.... don't tell me Redmond is willing to do everything in their power to become a Smartphone powerhouse... Have you ever heard of IDC and Gartner predicitions... with Tango, Microsoft is poised to capitalize on the emerging markets and outshine Apple to become the second in the race of smartphones.
      • They shouldn't.

        MS has no place in the mobile space.

        The Windows brand is equated with your junky computer at home and that's why it won't sell. That and the interface is a nasty, ugly mess that is hard to understand.

        Throw this all together:
        * Poor branding
        * Ugly user experience
        * Lack of phones
        * Lack of apps
        * Lack of people to talk to about your phones
        * Carriers not pushing them
        * Last place marketshare and not growing

        And MS should hang up and admit failure.
  • Sweet!

    Sweet! As an AT&T user, this means that I should get this update sometime before the heat death of the universe. (They still haven't even pushed out the disappearing keyboard fix.)
    • It must suck to watch MS let AT&T screw you like that.

      Paul Thurott's article yesterday was really depressing. I was actually hoping Microsoft was going to be able to b*tchslap the carriers into treating WP7 owners with some respect the way Apple has been able to for iPhone users. Unfortunately, MS caved and let carriers hose you.
      • Carrriers are Evil... but...

        Probelm is, Apple doesn't have tons of models... thus Apple customers rarely if ever "update" their AT&T phones and so thus, AT&T never really has problems with iPhone users... it is the Carrier's responsiblity to test the updates.... I believe sometimes these things take a while because AT&T values Android and other platforms over Winodws Phone simply because of the obvious reason that they make more money from other platforms... thus there is not much incentive for AT&T and other carriers to deliver updates quickly for a platform that is less than 5& of the United States... yes the carrrier's are evil, but MSFT came late to the game, and althought they are trying to catch ( and admirably)... we still have acknowledge that they came late, are somewhat behind and so therefore there is less incentive for carriers to push MSFT content.
      • If Apple can test updates...

        Why can't Microsoft? Microsoft doesn't even support the majority of Windows installs on computers, so why should it be different on phones?
        Jumpin Jack Flash
    • keyboard fix

      Really? verizon pushed out the keyboard fix last week. don't blame MS, blame AT&T
      • keyboard fix

        You must be on a different Verizon than I am...
    • Automatic Updates

      Do you in the US have to wait for the carrier to push the update? When I bought my windows phone it was supplied with WP7 (not mango) but when I docked it on my computer using Zune, it updated automatically. Can you not do that too?
  • Will this update REALLY be pushed out to every WP7 phone?

    Why should we believe Microsoft [i]this[/i] time?
    • Because, being in denial for the rest of your life is not a good option!

      People like you are the equivalent of somebody that complains about those that would buy a Ford, but, where you yourself have never owned or driven a Ford or even understand that, it might actually be better than whatever you drive currently.
      • This isn't about ownership or not.

        It's about the fact that MS has been unable to get [b]two[/b] fairly important updates out to all WP7 users already. Why should this third be any different? I think that's a valid question. Neither Mary Jo nor Microsoft give us any concrete reason why, so I think a little skepticism is justified.
      • matthew_maurice: Well, you should have a clue about the reasons for the

        "update failures"; that is, if you follow tech news at all, and understand that, Microsoft is not in the smartphone/WP7 ecosystem by themselves. There are other players and "partners" involved. That is a hint; now, take if from there.
  • Microsoft unveils 'Tango' Windows Phone update (without ever using the code

    They don't really need to use the codename, people know the WP7 brand and its feature set. What I like is that Microsoft is consistent in updating WP7, all phones can run the updates. Also like the fact that Microsoft takes the lowest specs approach in that it sets the minimums for hardware and codes to it instead of making an OS and trying to throw faster hardware with quad-cores at it to make it run better.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • So you're saying...

      They've taken the opposite approach than with their desktop OS? Microsoft has never been known to write efficient code. Everything they write gets bigger and slower with age.
      Jumpin Jack Flash