Microsoft has officially announced the first major update – Mango - for its Windows Phone 7 operating system and has borrowed from the best as it plays catch up in the smartphone race.
The software maker held a ‘VIP Preview’ in New York on Tuesday - seven months after it launched the platform in the Big Apple - to showcase some of the ‘500 features’ the OS bump will bring when it lands later this year.
Chief among these is the inclusion of enhanced messaging and social networking capabilities, such as Twitter and LinkedIn integration into contact information and the much-anticipated threaded conversation that seamlessly merges a number of communication services into a single view, much like on HP’s webOS. This means users can exchange messages via SMS, Facebook and Windows Live Messenger – all from the same screen.
The update also debuts Internet Explorer 9, which Microsoft claims is capable of speedier loading of HTML5 content thanks to hardware acceleration, which takes advantage of the graphics processor to render animations.
An updated of Microsoft Office will also be onboard that includes new versions of Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and other apps, plus SkyDrive integration for storing and accessing files on the cloud.
The highlight of the show, however, is the addition of multitasking for third-party apps.
Microsoft has again taken a cue from the competition by borrowing the ‘card’ based metaphor for multitasking, originally introduced by webOS, to visually represent running apps. Users can bring up the card view by long pressing the back button, flick through (horizontally) the apps and tap on any to open it.
Games are automatically paused when user switches to card view and resume again when user returns to the game.
Mango will arrive this autumn and will be the debut platform for Nokia’s first Windows Phone 7 handset.