Microsoft hosted a special event in New York today to preview its upcoming Mango update. Andy Lees, Microsoft's president of mobile business communications, was on hand to outline some of the new functionality. All together, Mango will bring more than 500 new features, all focusing on three major areas: communications, apps, and Internet.
Mango will be the biggest update to the mobile platform since launching in November 2010 and is expected to be rolled out to devices in the fall. Unfortunately, the company did not introduce any new hardware, though it did announce new partners (ZTE, Acer, and Fujitsu) and confirm that the first Windows Phone Nokia handsets will use Mango software.
In the communications department, one of the new features in the People hub will be the ability to have group contacts. Creating a group is as simply as selecting contacts from your address book and assigning a name to the group. You can then a message to the whole group with a tap of a button, without having to select each individual contact.
You'll also be able to see the news feed for just the contacts in your group and not your entire address book.
Another feature coming to the People hub is Twitter and LinkedIn integration, but this wasn't demoed at the event. The lack of Twitter integration was something we bemoaned when Windows Phone first launched, so we're definitely happy to see that Mango fixes the situation.
The Mango update will also bring the capability to unify multiple e-mail boxes. Rather than clumping together all your different accounts like other platforms, Microsoft will give you the option to choose which accounts you want to link into a unified inbox. We definitely like having the option to pick and choose, simply for the choice of keeping your work e-mail and personal accounts separate.
Mango supports conversation view in e-mails, which are easily identified by the small bullet points to the left of the message. You can then tap to expand to view the entire thread or delete. There's also a new threads feature that gives users the ability to switch between text, Facebook chat, and Windows Live Messenger within one conversation.
We first heard about third-party multitasking at Mobile World Congress, but this is the first time we got to see it in action and we couldn't be more excited. By doing a long-press of the back button, you'll get a carousel-like view of all your open apps, so you can easily switch between tasks.
Microsoft said it wanted to make the Internet smarter and faster, so with Mango, you get the addition of Internet Explorer 9 with HTML5 support and hardware-accelerated graphics. The company did a browser speed test during the presentation with the BlackBerry Torch, iPhone, Samsung Droid Charge, and a Windows Phone device. The Windows Phone handset won.
Mango's App Connect feature will also search your phone for any relevant apps. Here, you can see it brought up Amazon Shopping and Amazon Kindle so you can either purchase or download the book. Microsoft is making its Mango developer tools available today, so developers can integrate the App Connect feature into their apps.
Local search is enhanced with Mango as results and recommendations are filtered by user preferences. Windows Phone will also provide recommendations for restaurants, shopping, and activities closest to your location. You can then view them on a map and get even more detailed information. For example, shown here is the inside of the Manhattan Mall.
In addition to communications, apps, and Internet, Mango also brings a handful of new business features. This includes Office document storage in the cloud. Now, users will be able to share and store documents through Office 365 and Windows Live Skydrive.
Previously, you had to download an extra pack from the Windows Phone Marketplace to get your Xbox Live Avatar in the Xbox Live hub, but with Mango, this will be automatic. No need for an extra download.