Microsoft Shows New 'Mango' Features

Microsoft showed off some of the 500 new features it says are coming in the first major update to Windows Phone 7 (WP7), codenamed "Mango," next fall during a gala preview event in New York Tuesday.

Among the 500 new features promised in Mango at the event, many key additions will be focused around providing tighter integration between the operating system and the phone apps -- "blurring the lines" between the phone and the apps, as Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Mobile Communications Business put it during his New York presentation.

"The smartphone experience can be complicated by a sea of disconnected apps and accounts as people attempt to keep pace with all the ways they communicate — from calls, texts, email and instant messages (IM) to status updates, Tweets, check-ins, photo posting and tagging," the company said in a statement. "To help people stay on top of that growing complexity, the 'Mango' release organizes information around the person or group people want to interact with, not the app they have to use."

Perhaps, not surprisingly, many of the largest new features coming in Mango have already been revealed by Microsoft earlier this year, including the addition of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) and the addition of multitasking for apps.

Earlier this month, at Microsoft's TechEd Conference in Atlanta, the company also showed off previously unannounced capabilities designed for business users.

Among new business features will be "pinnable" email folders that can be pinned to WP7's start screen. Mango will also add a "conversation" view so that businesses users can glance through the entire thread of an email.

Other new features revealed Tuesday are harder to describe and appear to be mostly focused on consumers' use of WP7.

For instance, Microsoft is implementing threading capabilities that will enable users to move from texting to Facebook chat to a Live Messenger session within the same conversation, the company's statement said.

Additionally, with the aim of providing deeper integration with social networking sites, Microsoft will integrate Twitter and LinkedIn feeds into contact cards.

Meanwhile, the update will feature "built-in Facebook check-ins" as well as face detection capabilities to let users more easily tag and post photos online.

Mango will also let users link to multiple email accounts in the same inbox, and will provide test-to-speech and speech-to-text capabilities for hands free texting.

Other new features will include so-called "hyperlocal" searches, called "local scout," so that users can see what restaurants, stores, theaters, and other venues are nearby, as well as "Quick Cards" that will provide at-a-glance summaries of things the user is interested in.

"You can live like a local with local scout," Lees told the audience.

Given Microsoft's recent announcement of intent to buy Skype, that too is on the agenda.

Lees also said that three more mobile device manufacturers -- Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE -- have signed on to make WP7 phones, and that Microsoft will make beta versions of development tools for Mango developer available within 24 hours.

Microsoft said Mango will ship on new WP7 devices in the fall, and the company will also provide the update as a free upgrade to WP7 users around the same time.

Finally, Lees told his audience to stay tuned because the company plans more events in coming months to show off more new features coming in Mango.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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