Microsoft has given developers a detailed look at the features in the next update to Windows Phone, code-named 'Mango', which is set to arrive on handsets later in 2011.
Joe Belfiore, head of Windows Phone Program Management, said at the MIX11 developer conference on Wednesday that Microsoft is working to create a platform that will help them sell more applications to more engaged users, with new features to enable better applications.
Joe Belfiore, head of Windows Phone Program Management, has shown off the next update to Windows Phone, code-named 'Mango'. Photo credit: Jay Greene/CNET News
"The next release of Windows Phone represents the evolution of our strategy for ensuring that developers are at the forefront of 'what's next' by investing in even richer customer experiences, a powerful application platform and a thriving ecosystem," Belfiore told the audience in Las Vegas.
The Windows Phone user interface is being updated in Mango with the aim of "making it easier for the user to launch, to search, to find, to buy and to install" apps, he noted in his keynote presentation. For example, listings in the Windows Phone Marketplace will have more metadata, and users will be able to see reviews, screenshots and related applications.
Another new key feature in Mango is support for deep links into application content. A Bing search on a phone will display applications in the search results, with a link to relevant content in the application. Belfiore demonstrated this with a movie search that linked to content in an Internet Movie Database (IMDB) application.
In February, at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft outlined Windows Phone multitasking, which provides background processing, audio and file transfer, and fast switching between applications. At MIX11, Belfiore demonstrated the feature using the Spotify music player, Skype video calling and the Angry Birds game.
He also revealed a new multitasking feature, Live Agents, which allows developers to run background agents that are scheduled in what Belfiore called "a battery-friendly way". Live Agents manages device and network events, and handles basic user interface tasks such as updating Windows Phone's Live Tiles.
Key developer features
Other key developer features in the next release of Windows Phone include support for low-level networking and a local database. It will also add access to sensors, so that developers can use raw camera data and a new motion sensor API developed in conjunction with Microsoft Research that brings compass and gyroscope data together. This will allow developers to build augmented reality apps, according the software maker.
The next release of Windows Phone represents the evolution of our strategy for ensuring that developers are at the forefront.– Joe Belfiore, Microsoft
The mobile version of Internet Explorer 9 has the same hardware acceleration features as the desktop version. "The core web browser is the same code base from the PC, so the user gets the benefits of HTML 5 on the phone," Belfiore said, as he showed IE9 on Windows Phone.
Microsoft will add support for 16 additional languages to Windows Phone in Mango, including typographic support for Asian languages. At the same time, it will increase the number of countries where developers can submit applications to its Windows Phone Marketplace to 36, and more than double the number where applications can be purchased, from 16 to 35.
Developers will get access to the next release of Windows Phone Developer tools in May, with new debugging and profiling features as well as an emulator with accelerometer and location support.
Belfiore apologised for the way Microsoft handled the 'NoDo' Windows Phone 7 update process, giving further details of the issues that caused delays. Noting that there had been manufacturing issues with devices, Belfiore said "there was no one issue, and none particularly widespread".
However, Microsoft has become more cautious with the update process as a result, he said, and taken on additional staff to its update team. "We expect to get good at this," he said.
Belfiore also touched on Microsoft's planned partnership with Nokia, which will see the Finnish handset maker adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform. "The platform is credible and growing quickly, and the Nokia deal is helping. We're making progress on the engineering end," he said.
Marco Argenti, Nokia's head of developer experience, joined Belfiore on stage to talk about the prospects for developers from the alliance. "The ecosystem will be larger than anyone has imagined," Argenti said.
Microsoft also gave MIX11's developer audience a first look at its Kinect developer tools, due later this spring, demonstrating application development and showing examples of applications that had been built using the toolkit. These included a Kinect-controlled mobile recliner chair and gesture-control of the World Wide Telescope immersive astronomy service.
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