Phones

Windows Phone 7 gets IE9, Twitter, multitasking, Kinect companionship

Microsoft's about to augment its mobile OS with a glut of new features designed to help Windows Phone 7 handsets compete with the iPhone and Android phones.

Windows Phone 7 has played second fiddle to iOS, Android and BlackBerry OS since it hit the streets in October last year. Microsoft is about to augment its mobile OS, however, with a glut of new features designed to help Windows Phone 7 handsets compete with the iPhones and HTC Desire HDs of this world.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this afternoon, Microsoft boss hog Steve Ballmer announced Windows Phone 7 would add better Twitter integration to its People Hub -- the section of the OS that gives users a feed of the most recent updates from  friends. There's more, too.

Windows Phone 7 will feature Internet Explorer 9 Mobile. Microsoft says this will deliver a "dramatically enhanced mobile Web browser experience". In other words, it'll feature HTML5 support and hardware acceleration, which should make surfing the Internets a heck of a lot less painful. 

The updated Windows Phone 7 will also allow multitasking of third-party apps. Hold the back button while running an app and WP7 shows all active applications in a row of tiles -- a bit like HP's webOS does. Tap a tile, and it'll take you back to where you left off in that app. This will work wonders when running audio apps, when music will continue playing in the background while you work in other programs.

The next update allows Windows Phone 7 handsets to act as companion devices for Kinect. That's right -- users will be able to use their phones to contribute to Kinect games on the Xbox 360 while other users flail around maniacally. In one technology demo, Microsoft shows a user playing Rally Ball -- aka human Breakout -- while others control the course of the balls being thrown towards him with their Windows Phone 7 devices.

Want more? WP7 will be finally be blessed with copy and paste capabilities and better SkyDrive integration. The latter will allow users to store and access data in the cloud, and to collaboratively edit Office documents with other users.

We must confess to not being totally swayed by the merits of Windows Phone 7 in the past, but with these updates, Microsoft's mobile OS deserves to be taken very seriously. The updates will arrive in March. Keep it locked to Crave -- we'll give you more info as we get it.