Microsoft's Windows phone development team on Tuesday officially signed off on the release to manufacturing (RTM) build of Mango, the next version of the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. Release to manufacturing marks the point in the development cycle where Microsoft hands code to handset makers and mobile operators to optimize Mango for their smartphones and network configurations.
"The Mango update for current Windows phone handsets will be ready this fall, and of course will come pre-installed on new Windows phones," Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Engineering, wrote in a blog post. "In May, we officially took the wraps off of Mango, a release including hundreds of new features that create a smarter and easier approach to communications and apps while delivering the best web experience."
Mango's Juicy Features
There are many new features in Mango that didn't make it into Windows Phone 7. Some of them focus on productivity. Pinnable e-mail folders, for example, let users pin a folder to the start screen for quick access. This could be an e-mail folder for a specific project, from a specific group or person, or an RSS feed set up in Outlook.
There's also a conversation view in e-mail that organizes inbox e-mails by conversation so it's easier to review the consolidated thread. Mango also lets users search the e-mail server for older e-mails that aren't stored on the device.
Some of Myerson's favorite features include Threads, which brings together text, IM and Facebook chat into one conversation, and App Multitasking. App Multitasking lets users work on e-mail, listen to music, and play games at the same time. Myerson also pointed out that Mango connects apps to search results and deepens integration with hubs like Music, Video and Pictures.
Developers Building Apps
"Mango appears to have RTM'd ahead of schedule by a couple of weeks, which means that a healthy range of devices by the holiday season is practically assured," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC. "Windows Phone 7 was good, especially for a first release, but it lacked key capabilities that its top competitors had. Mango is a substantial improvement, bringing multitasking and other needed features."
As Hilwa sees it, Mango begins to close the gap and in some ways exceeds its competitors. He pointed to the visual appeal of the platform as a key differentiator and noted that one of his favorite features is the application-updateable hubs that greet users at the home screen. He envisions evolving into a scorecard of everything that is important at a glance, once applications are revised to take advantage of it.
The Windows 8 Factor
Hilwa said he can almost hear developers egging on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with the chant "devices, devices, devices, devices," which is what users need to see when they walk into wireless carrier stores. He wants to see multi-core chipsets, 4G capability, and front-facing cameras. He also figures a Skype-capable phone is on the horizon before the end of the year.
"It is a very positive move to see Fujitsu and KDDI line up behind the platform, but probably the broadest set of devices will come from Nokia," Hilwa said. "Given how late Microsoft started on this project, it has accomplished a great deal in less than a year. Microsoft will claw its way to success and market share over the next couple of releases. Its chances will be helped significantly with a successful Windows 8 release in 2012, which will create synergies between the PC and the phone in new ways."