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

Microsoft officials have finally started talking about Tango, the next update to the Windows Phone operating system.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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

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