'Mango' to Add 500 New Features

Microsoft is planning Tuesday to give a "VIP preview" of Windows Phone 7's (WP7) upcoming "Mango" update and, surprise, the first major upgrade will add some 500 new features, the company's CEO said over the weekend.

Speaking at Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Japanese Developer Forum 2011, Steve Ballmer told the audience that the company will add the mass of new features in Mango, which is due out later this year, although he didn't describe what any of them will be, according to published reports, including the WMPoweruser blog.

In fact, the company has a WP7 Mango event scheduled for Tuesday morning in New York, where it plans to reveal many of the pending new features.

Among the features already known to be being readied for Mango will be addition of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), as well as support for application multitasking for background processing functions, including audio and file transfer.

Microsoft first showed off Mango in mid-April at its MIX11 Web designers and developers conference in Las Vegas.

Mango is scheduled for release in the fall, Microsoft officials said at the time.

At Microsoft's TechEd Conference in Atlanta last week, the company also showed off new features for Mango -- which is rumored to be dubbed Windows Phone 7.5 -- aimed at business users.

Those business features will include the capability to save and share Office documents through Office 365, the company's pending replacement for its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) cloud computing offering for businesses, and Windows Live SkyDrive storage system.

Office 365, which is currently in beta test, provides cloud services versions of Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Lync 2010 -- as well as the Office 2010 Web Apps, and also provides an option to upgrade users to Office 2010 Professional Plus.

Many observers have said that, due to the breakneck speed at which competing phone platforms roll out updates to their systems, Microsoft has to make a big splash if it's going to get a leg up on the dominant players anytime soon.

In fact, according to a report late last week from analyst firm Gartner, Microsoft only sold 1.6 million WP7 phones in the first quarter of 2011.

Meanwhile, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android dominated the smartphone operating system market in the first quarter, selling more than 36 million units, a significant jump from 5.2 million in the first quarter of 2010, Gartner said.

Microsoft partners began selling WP7 devices in the U.S. in early November.

However, despite the p.r. spin that Microsoft made after the holidays, sales have been less than stellar.

"[WP7] devices launched at the end of 2010 failed to grow in consumer preference," Gartner's report said.

That doesn't mean that Gartner and other analyst firms have a totally bleak outlook on Microsoft's mobile device aspirations, though -- especially in light of the exclusive deal the company signed with mobile phone giant Nokia in February to ship all of its smartphones with WP7 beginning next year.

In fact, both Gartner and competing analyst firm IDC recently predicted that deal will help Microsoft take second place in smartphone operating systems by 2015.

Making waves with Mango may be the logical next step.

A Microsoft spokesperson was not available to comment by publication time.

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.