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Multitasking, IE9 coming to Windows Phone

At Mobile World Congress 2011, Microsoft outlines new features that will come to Windows Phone 7 this year.

Dell Venue Pro
Windows Phone will get two updates in 2011.
Bonnie Cha/CNET

This post was updated at 12:34 p.m., PT with a clarification on the Microsoft Kinect feature.

BARCELONA, Spain--A year ago, Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 7 at Mobile World Congress and this year the company gave us a glimpse of what lies ahead for the platform.

Outlined by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his MWC keynote, Microsoft said it will push out two software updates in 2011.

The first will bring the much-awaited cut-and-paste functionality, performance improvements, and support for CDMA networks.

This update will be rolled out in the first two weeks of March, with CDMA Windows Phone devices expected in the first half of 2011 from both Sprint and Verizon.

However, it's the second update that will deliver some of the major features we've all been pining for. This includes:

  • Third-party multitasking. This means you'll now be run applications in the background while working in another. For example, you can now continue to play music from Slacker, while sending an e-mail.

  • Support for Internet Explorer 9 with hardware enhancements. The mobile version of the browser will support the same standards (HTML5 and so forth) and hardware accelerated graphics as the PC version.

  • Office document storage in the cloud. Users will be able to share and store documents with Windows Live Skydrive. Skydrive will offer 25GB of storage per person.
  • Twitter integration into the People hub.

Microsoft says the second update will be rolled out in the second half of 2011 and that this is just a glimpse of the many features that will be rolled out this year.

Looking ahead, Microsoft also gave a demo of a Microsoft Kinect companion that will let you play Kinect games with your phone, but it's not something that will be delivered in 2011, as we reported earlier. Instead, Microsoft said it something it was able to achieve in its labs using real code, and the company has big ideas on how to tie it into Windows Phone in the future.

No new phones were announced at MWC 2011, but both Microsoft and Nokia reiterated that their new partnership would allow them to bring more hardware to consumers, including lower-priced smartphones.