Microsoft just wrapped its Windows Phone "Mango" press conference where they demoed some of the 500-plus new features in the Mango update and announced new handset makers for upcoming WP7s but did not show off any prototypes.
As was leaked just prior to the event, Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE will be joining Nokia, HTC, Dell, LG and Samsung in producing WP7 phones by the end of this year. Andy Lees, president of Microsoft’s mobile communication business, did not reveal any specific details about these upcoming handsets other than to say they will allow Microsoft to offer the phones at different price points and expand its global reach. He did mention Nokia phones running WP7 Mango are already in Microsoft labs and that a Skype app for WP7 is forthcoming but did not elaborate.
Microsoft made it its mission to put "people at the center, not apps" in the Mango update and it shows. Rather than rely on apps to augment OS functionalities, Mango integrates related features together to reduce the number of times a user has to hop between apps. For example, on the Xbox LIVE screen, not only can you see who is online or off and read all the messages between you and your gamer friends, you can also track and compare scores -- all without opening separate apps. Many of the key new features that are part of this release have already been mentioned in various industry events and conferences so seeing a more thorough walk-through that ties them together was the highlight of this event. (Watch the demo by Joe Belfiore to get a better sense of how Mango works.) Unfortunately, only the main features were demoed on stage, while the rest of new features will be revealed slowly, probably not until the first Mango handset arrives. Here are the confirmed features per the press release:
Threads. Switch between text, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation.
Groups. Group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see the latest status updates right from the Start Screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to the whole group.
Deeper social network integration. Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now integrated into contact cards, and “Mango” includes built-in Facebook check-ins and new face detection software that makes it easier to quickly tag photos and post to the Web.
Linked inbox. See multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Conversations are organized to make it easy to stay on top of the latest mail.
Hands-free messaging. Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting.
App Connect. By connecting apps to search results and deepening their integration with Windows Phone Hubs, including Music and Video and Pictures, “Mango” allows apps to be surfaced when and where they make sense.
Improved Live Tiles. Get real-time information from apps without having to open them. Live Tiles can be more dynamic and hold more information.
Multitasking. Quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background, helping to preserve battery life and performance.
Internet Explorer 9. A browser based on the powerful Internet Explorer 9 and including support for HTML5 and full hardware acceleration.
Local Scout. Provides hyperlocal search results and recommends nearby restaurants, shopping and activities in an easy-to-use guide.
Bing on Windows Phone. More ways to search the Web, including Bing Vision, Music Search and Voice so it’s easy to discover and decide.
Quick Cards. When searching for a product, movie, event or place, see a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps.
According to Engadget, the new Internet Explorer 9 "supports HTML5, but still won't deliver Flash or Silverlight compatibility," which, if true, would be one negative in this otherwise welcome update to WP7. My favorite feature of Mango is the visual search that can initiate a search on Bing just by snapping a picture of whatever you need more information on, without requiring that you tap out the query on a keyboard. I'm not sure how effective or accurate it will be, but it certainly looks intriguing. The Mango release will be rolling out to WP7 customers this fall.
What are you most looking forward to on the "Mango" Windows Phone 7?