What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

Summary: On May 24, Microsoft execs shared a few more details about some of the promised 500 features coming to the "Mango" Windows Phone release, due out later this year.

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On May 24, Microsoft execs shared a few more details about some of the promised 500 features coming to the "Mango" Windows Phone release, due out later this year.

During today's Mango preview in New York City, Microsoft didn't provide an exact launch or availability date for Mango. (Officials reiterated Mango would be out on new phones some time this fall.) They didn't share a list of all of the 500 features and showed off a small subset of them only. They wouldn't answer questions about rumored features that were not mentioned at the preview (like turn-by-turn directions, Zune music/video and Flash). And they didn't have any new Mango phones available for those of us who attended the press/analyst preview event to play with -- which may be a mixed blessing, given Microsoft doesn't want to completely kill off the not-so-robust demand for existing Windows Phones.

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But Andy Lees, the President of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, did discuss some of the coming features of Mango -- some of which have leaked or been shown previously at other Microsoft events, and a couple of which were brand-new.

Lees said Microsoft's goal with Mango is to make smartphones smarter and easier to use. He showed off three buckets of features today: Those which allow users to connect and share with family, friends and colleagues; "rich applications" that are built into the core phone experience; and Internet connectivity.

Here's what Microsoft did say about Mango today:

A beta of the Mango developer tools is available for download as of today. Microsoft still isnt' saying when the Mango bits will be available to developers (beyond the select few who have test builds of Mango now).

Fujitsu, Acer and ZTE are all going to have Windows Mango phones out this year. Existing Windows Phone partners HTC, LG, Samsung and Nokia will have Mango phones, as well. Nokia's first WP7 phones will run Mango and are currently being tested in Microsoft's labs. No word if Nokia will have phones out late this year or not until next year. Update: Sounds as if Microsoft officials told preview attendees in other cities that the first Nokia Mango phones would be out in calendar 2011.

Microsoft is adding Windows Phone Marketplace support for 19 more countries, in addition to the 16 that already have support, as of Mango. (But Microsoft isn't saying whether Bing and Zune support will also be coming to countries beyond the small number that already have those features in time for the Mango release.)

On the communications front, Mango will get "Threads, the ability to switch between text, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation; "Groups," the ability to group contacts into personalized Live Tiles so as to text, email or IM a group; built-in Facebook check-ins and new face-detection software for tagging photos; linked inboxes, allowing users to see multiple mail accounts in one linked inbox; and built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support for hands-free texting/chatting.

On the applications front, third-party multitasking is coming (as previously announced). A new "App Connect" feature is going to more tightly tie search into Windows Phone Hubs, including Music and Video and Pictures.

On the "beyond the browser" front, "Local Scout" will provide hyperlocal search results and recommendations; Bing Vision and Music Search ("Bing Audio") will be added; and "Quick Cards" will provide summaries of relevant information for users searching for products, movies, events or places.

Here's what the Softies didn't show and wouldn't talk about (beyond the statements I've included below):

Flash support: IE 9 Mobile doesn't support plug-ins, but Microsoft is seemingly not ruling out Flash support in the future (for some reason). A spokesperson said, re: Flash: "(T)here’s nothing new on this front. Adobe and Microsoft have a strong history of partnership and continue to work together to deliver Flash technology available in the market today to all Windows Mobile 6.5-based Windows Phones available now and in the future."

Is Dell abandoning the WP platform? (Dell wasn't listed in Microsoft's list of OEMs who will have Mango phones). When I asked about Dell, a Microsoft spokesperson said: "We don’t have anything to announce right now but we deeply value our partnerships with our existing partners and we will continue to invest with them."

What's the version number of the Mango operating system? (Microsoft inadvertently said earlier this year it would be Windows Phone OS 7.5.) Answer: No comment at this time -- in spite of the fact that Microsoft's own site mentions 7.1 as the new seemingly final name. But wait... maybe OS 7.5 will triumph, after all.

When will existing Windows Phone users get Mango pushed to them? It's anyone's guess how long carriers may take to test the Mango bits once they are available to them (that availability to carriers date is rumored to be this summer).

Will third-party applications ever be able to be integrated directly into Microsoft's Windows Phone hubs? No word. Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore says yes.

Update: And regarding turn-by-turn directions -- another feature the Softies didn't discuss at the preview -- developers have found that feature does exist in the coming Mango release. But it sounds as if Microsoft execs admitted at the London preview that tethering won't supported in Mango.

Mango is the successor to the "NoDo" Windows Phone OS update that Microsoft has been rolling out over the past few months. In addition to the features listed above, Mango is slated to include IE 9 Mobile, improvements around accessing apps via Microsoft's Live SkyDrive, integrated Windows Live Messenger functionality, and new private/beta marketplace support.

What's your take after today's preview? Will Mango enable Microsoft to catch up and grow its smartphone share? Or are there still glaring omissions on the feature side of its phone house that need addressing?

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

About

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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  • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

    As a mobile developer who's eager to port our app to Windows Phone 7, we were pretty disappointed by today's developer announcements.

    No native development kit; No low-level access to cameras, microphones & speakers; No support for additional programming languages - C/C++?;

    Ability to not run native code is a big no-no for serious developers like us. Android & iOS realized it belatedly and did add support. Hopefully Microsoft would realize it soon.
    balsmanian
    • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

      @balsmanian ... why were you expecting more? Microsoft has made it VERY clear at the developer conferences that they are commited to the existing platform, which I would argue is about as native as possible. They've also made it clear they won't give direct hardware control, which I'm totally OK with as a user and security guy... I don't want developers mucking up my devices.
      GoodThings2Life
      • Exactly

        @GoodThings2Life. Spot on. I also think its a very bad idea to have any app get that kind of hook into a device. Apps should be totally isolated as much as possible from the OS. If your app can't do that, then find another way
        fairlane32
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @GoodThings2Life exactly you can't have push updates and mucking up in the same universe.

        Microsoft is doing it right.
        orea
    • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

      @balsmanian
      Why would you want C/C++ support? Syntax of C# is pretty close to C++ and support for C# in Visual Studio is much better than for C++.
      I think that one of the reasons why Windows Mobile apps looked as crap was due to C/C++ usage. These languages are just too complicated for UI programming.
      paul2011
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @paul2011 <br>- performance<br>- NEON SIMD instructions<br>- run legacy code and libraries<br>- did i mention performance?
        SignalToNoise
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @SignalToNoise: Where, specifically, is C# code too slow for you ... other than where SIMD would be used? I have seen countless claims that C# is too slow, only to discover that the code was poorly written. I have seen VERY few real examples where C# is too slow. For 90% of scenarios, C# is more than fast enough.
        bitcrazed
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @paul2011 Serious applications (that involve doing a lot of math - for example, doing Video Compression) just can't be written using C#.

        The only way to get the maximum performance out of a mobile device is to optimize for the processor architecture underneath (ARMv7) - both using plain old ARM assembly and using NEON SIMD instructions. And guess what, both iOS and Android support that.

        Also, you are not going to get a lot of existing heavyweight apps (Fring Group Video Chat comes to mind) that were developed using C/C++ with a lot of ARM/NEON assembly rewritten in C#.

        I'm not saying they should let me write the UI in C/C++. Just like Android (where they insist that the UI must be written in Java), Microsoft could insist that the UI must be written in C# - but they must provide support for C/C++ with native assembly code.

        It is just a matter of time until Microsoft provides this support. I would rather they do it sooner than later before they are extinct.
        balsmanian
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @bitcrazed C# has never been fast at porting C++ code, OpenGL, directX games etc. No native is a big reason why WinPhone7 has so few apps or real games. To port to WP7==rewrite. The API was poorly thought out from that respect.
        martyfinkle
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        Native code apps would not benefit Windows Phone:
        1. The product is cloud-oriented. Apps should locate high-performance code on a server somewhere and keep the WP client UI-only.
        2. The phone's success depends on predictable performance and attention to overall stability, which managed code provides much better than native.
        3. I do feel sorry about apps that need to be rewritten, however different platforms usually benefit from such rewrites as opposed to shoehorning bits that aren't a good fit... i.e. putting legacy components on a Windows Phone sounds crazy to me. That may mean fewer ports in the short term, but also fewer headaches akin to the hangover from IE6.
        scH4MMER
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @martyfinkle

        I believe you're mistaken there mister. WP have XNA for games which is directX for mobile. and we have a lot of high quality games, at present on my phone are glyder, need for speed, the harvest, the sims 3, twin blades, earthworm jim, PES 2011 (soccer), pocket riot and more. there are lots more in the marketplace but those are the ones I play regular.

        the platform doesn't need native code. this is good for Microsoft and Devs alike where Microsoft can bring the platform to other architectures without any additional coding from Devs, they can speed up the OS along with apps without any plus coding from Devs. if Microsoft wants to enable WP7 apps to run on windows PC they can and this is done without Devs having to go back and rewrite code for x86 architecture. so think again. Any Dev worth his salt should be able to pick up an easy language like C# and get things done. most of the Work is even already done for them with the Microsoft tools provided. yes, it's that easy.
        blazing_smiley_face
      • Reply to blazing...

        Active-X for a smartphone? Not a great idea. Like regular Windows, no consideration for real security.<br><br>Also, more features = more holes.<br><br>What type of AV is going to be mandated?<br><br>Perhaps an app to check for botnets and unauthorized spam emails?<br><br>Really, where's the security talk here? Answer = absolutely none, typical MS, all glitter and gizmos,but no basic security. AV recommendations to be announced later.<br><br>If I was a carrier, I'd be worried about liability for botnet infections and having MS invoke the all powerful EULA.
        Joe.Smetona
    • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

      @balsmanian
      500 new features. What a pain in the arse for developers to code for.

      For thw WP7 Fanbois, I had though WP7 was fab already, I'm wonderfing why 500 new features are even needed - we are barely 6 months from launch.
      neilpost
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @neilpost - nobody is forcing you to adopt all the new features. If you want/need raw camera access, then now you can. If not, don't worry. Same applies for most other features.

        Are you seriously complaining that Microsoft has added too many features to the phone?
        bitcrazed
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @neilpost
        There are WP7 fanboys?
        Droid101
    • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

      @balsmanian : Native app support on iPhone wasn't a "oh my G0d... we forgot that... thingy". They had that in mind, but pretended that developers asked for it.

      Else, how do you explain the Google Maps and YouTube apps. Google had access to the API before anyone. The App Store was part of the plan. HTML5 was just given as an intermediate solution until they had the bits ready.

      On the other hand, Microsoft can't give native support as this will crash the Silverlight 4 sandbox. Although most API will only be "wrappers" to the Win32 COM+ code, they don't want unmanaged code in this systems.

      You'll have to wait for Windows [Phone] 8 for that, at that moment, I think they will switch to the full Windows kernel and leave the wimpy little useless Windows Embedded Compact 7.0 kernel behind.
      cosuna
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @cosuna You may be right about Apple's intention of always providing native support.

        Even Microsoft is providing "native access" to select vendors who are writing apps that are "packaged" (See http://blog.walshie.me/2010/11/12/windows-phone-7-native-apps-the-missing-link)

        The question is whether Microsoft will provide this native access to third party developers like us. I am pretty sure they are working on providing such access - albeit not very aggressively.

        Maybe in Windows Phone 8... although it may be too late at the rate at which iOS & Android are growing and maturing.
        balsmanian
      • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

        @cosuna
        Regarding the iPhone. As I read between the lines, I think apps were going to be implemented in javascript, a la Dashboard. I think there were performance issues and they called an audible in 2006. All the day 0 iPhone apps were native, but the sdk wasn't ready for prime time.

        Gotta love Salesman Steve Jobs, when he tried to position "Web Apps!" as the great story for developers back in January 2007. Some fields aren't strong enough to distort some realities, though people did work with that api; it probably boosted webkit's acceptance. Some developers dived into Objective-C native and were in great position when summer 2008 and the app store rolled around.

        But, having a store for commercial entities to sell content (in this case software) for the device? That's straight out of the iPod Manual and very traceable to what Apple learned from its inability in the 90s to get the Mac out of the 3-5% share doldrums.
        DannyO_0x98
    • RE: What Microsoft is and isn't saying (yet) about Windows Phone 'Mango'

      Typical MS, all vaporware talk.
      james347
      • Message has been deleted.

        JoeHTH