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By 25 May 2011 | Categories: news

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Microsoft SA held a preview event yesterday in Bryanston, Johannesburg, for the next major release of Windows Phone, code-named “Mango”, coinciding with the international announcement of the new update. 
 
According to Microsoft Mango will deliver over 500 new features to its mobile operating system (OS) centred around communications, apps and the internet.
 
The Mango release will be available for free to Windows Phone 7 users and is scheduled to ship on new phones beginning this fall (Q4 of 2011), with a more specific date being provided closer to availability.
 
Users with a Windows Phone OS-operating device will get a notification on their smartphone that the update is available and they can then connect it to their PC to download it via the Zune software.
 
Communications: Easier to connect and share
 
Smartphones are by nature app hungry devices, but their use can be complicated by what the Redmond-based company calls “a sea of disconnected apps”. Put more simply it means users have to open an app for each function for instance the Facebook app to chat to their family or friends on the social network and the Windows Live Messenger app to chat to users on that service.
 
With Mango threads takes a user between text (SMS and MMS), Facebook chat, as well as Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation. Mango’s voice recognition abilities were also demonstrated with regard to messaging. Andy Lees, president of Windows Phone at Microsoft, led the Mango demonstration.
 
Whilst he was busy listening to music, he received a message on the phone which paused the music and informed of the message. He could then literally tell the smartphone to ignore the message or read it to him. Afterwards he could also tell it to respond to the message merely saying what his response was, while the device typed it and then sending the reply. 
 
Not as impressive but just as useful as the voice recognition capabilities is groups, available with the update. Users can create a group from their contacts and display group contacts in personalized Live Tiles.
 
 
The latter enables a user to view the latest status updates and uploaded photos for those grouped users, right from the Start Screen and quickly send a text, email to the entire group.
 
Deeper social network integration is also available in Mango, with Twitter and enterprise social network LinkedIn feeds, being integrated into contact cards. Mango includes built-in Facebook check-ins and new face detection software that makes it easier to quickly tag photos and post to these to the web.
 
A smarter approach to apps
 
Besides the improved social networking integration, the Mango update will see apps appear as part of Bing search results and within Windows Phone Hubs, with the most practical example of this being Cards. These are handy summaries of relevant info from Bing (including related apps) for products, movies, events or place that you search for.
 
To demonstrate this new ability a search was done for information on a certain flight and instead of showing the Bing search results page, a set of quick cards appeared with all the relevant information of that flight, as well as the abilities to take a ‘virtual tour’ of it to find the best seat and booking a seat (via an app).
 
Not as new as the quick cards but enhanced are the Live Tiles. These can now hold more information and allow a user to obtain more real-time information from apps without having to open them. 
 
Multitasking has also been improved, with users being able to quickly switch between apps in use (by holding the back key) and enable apps to run in the background, assisting to preserve battery life and performance.
 
Taking the internet beyond the browser
 
In addition to including Internet Explorer 9, the Mango release will connect the power of the internet to the unique capabilities of your smartphone.
 
This includes location awareness, whereby new functionality dubbed Local Scout, provides users with localised search results and recommendations for nearby restaurants, shopping venues and activities taking place in their neighbourhood in an easy to use guide. Unfortunately for SA users this is one of the features that will not be available with the local Mango release.
 
 
Strengthening the Ecosystem
 
Microsoft also spoke of the Windows Phone ecosystem which has grown since Windows Phone 7 first launched in October, as there are now north of 17 000 apps currently available on Marketplace.
 
Besides the current Windows Phone OS partners in LG, HTC and Samsung, Mango will further expand the Windows Phone ecosystem through new partnerships with Acer, Fujitsu as well as ZTE. These companies will be delivering new Windows Phone devices in markets around the world, but Microsoft couldn’t confirm which of these (if any) are bringing devices to South Africa.  
 
Redmond also said that it expects to see a Windows Phone Mango running device from its newly announced partner Nokia, at least in some parts of the world before the end of 2011.  
 
“Seven months ago we started our mission to make smartphones smarter and easier for people to do more,” said Nazeer Suliman, consumer and online lead at Microsoft. “With Mango, Windows Phone takes a major step forward in redefining how people communicate and use apps and the Internet, giving you better results with less effort.”

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