Microsoft Delivers the Mango Juice

Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled Mango, an upcoming version of its Windows Phone 7 mobile OS.

Mango will deliver more than 500 new features, focusing around communications, apps and the Internet, Microsoft said.

It will be available to existing WinPho7 customers for free, and it will begin shipping on new smartphones in the fall. Microsoft will release details and timing of device updates later, company spokesperson Jackie Lawrence told TechNewsWorld.

Although anticipation for Mango has been building for weeks among Windows Phone watchers, Dmitriy Molchanov, for one, was underwhelmed.

“There’s nothing groundbreaking in the announcement, and the 500 features they’ve listed are sure to contain small tweaks we’ve come to expect from other platforms,” Molchanov, an analyst at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld.

“That number of new features would make for a whole new operating system,” chuckled Maribel Lopez, principal analyst and founder of Lopez Research. “I think the tone of the announcement was, ‘If there’s something you want, Windows phones will have it.'”

Microsoft on Mango

Mango’s “more than 500 new features and enhancements” will be “actual features for different audiences such as end users, developers and IT administrators,” Microsoft’s Lawrence said. Bug fixes won’t be counted.

Redmond hasn’t settled on a final name for the product, according to Lawrence.

Mango will use a version of Internet Explorer 9, raising questions about security on WinPho7 devices. Could a browser hack impact WinPho7 device users?

“We developed Windows Phone from the ground up with security in mind,” Lawrence said. To protect against malware threats introduced through the browser, “IE Mobile ensures that malicious code cannot be launched from websites,” she added.

Microsoft is taking other security measures as well.

Go Mango, Go!

Among its various new features, Mango has smarter Live Tiles that can carry notifications and offer Twitter and LinkedIn support.

Windows Live Messenger and Facebook Chat are integrated into Mango out of the box. Mango will also add visual voicemail support.

Mango organizes information around people. For example, conversation threads will run across applications so users can switch between text, Facebook Chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation.

Users can view multiple email accounts in one linked inbox.

Mango includes built-in face detection software that lets users tag photos and post them to the Web more easily.

The Mango release also connects apps to search results and integrates them with Windows Phone Hubs, including music, video and pictures. This will bring up apps as needed.

Bing Search for Mango will offer hyperlocal search results; recommend nearby shopping, restaurants and activities; and provide indoor maps.

Mongo Mango Muscle

In addition, Microsoft announced partnerships with new OEMs for WinPho7 smartphones: Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE.

Further, Microsoft is going global. It will expand the Windows Phone Marketplace abroad. The OS will support additional languages, including Chinese, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and several European languages.

Redmond will post a beta release of the free Windows Phone Developer tools for public download on its website within 24 hours of the Mango announcement.

Where Mango Mauls the Competition

WinPho7 is ahead of the curve in manufacturer support, especially with the signing on of new OEMs announced Tuesday, the Yankee Group’s Molchanov told TechNewsWorld.

Further, integrating Windows 365 and Live SkyDrive into WinPho7 and letting business users search email servers for archived conversations on the go “will help WinPho7 outshine iOS and Android,” Molchanov opined.

However, WinPho7 “still falls short of what RIM offers,” Molchanov said.

Mango’s Shortfalls

Microsoft is still having trouble attracting developers, Molchanov stated. The 17,000 apps it offers fall far short of Android’s 250,000 and Apple’s 500,000, he pointed out.

Perhaps the publishing of appdev tools for Mango within 24 hours of Tuesday’s announcement will help things along.

Also, Microsoft’s Hubs are “compelling, but Microsoft is playing catch-up here,” Molchanov said.

Lack of support for the in-home experience and for streaming media are other weak points.

While Google and Apple “have stepped up their efforts to have mobile devices interact with devices in the home,” Microsoft hasn’t, Molchanov said.

Further, Microsoft “is nowhere to be found” in streaming media, whereas Google has already launched Music Beta, and Apple has reportedly struck deals with most of the major music industry labels, Molchanov stated.

Differentiation Is a Challenge

“I think there’s a perception that Windows Phone is far behind the competition,” the Lopez Group’s Maribel Lopez said.

The big challenge for smartphone vendors is differentiating their products from everyone else, Lopez suggested.

Perhaps that’s where integrating WinPho7 with Bing may help.

“The idea is that the Bing search box integrates completely with the user experience,” the Yankee Group’s Molchanov said. “If Bing knows a consumer is searching for movie showings, it may open up a Fandango or Movies application to present relevant information,” he added.

“Microsoft is hoping this will be a key differentiator as applications on other platforms are siloed and don’t interact with the phone as readily,” Molchanov explained.

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