There’s one thing that Microsoft is doing very, very right when it comes to Windows Phone, and that’s the fact that they are very, very open with their update plans. And general hiccups aside the company has done pretty well in making sure that they stick to their guns in that process. They’ve continued their plan of action today, announcing in a VIP preview event the next version of their fledgling mobile operating system, now known as Windows Phone 7.1, or “Mango.” The features of Mango up until now have been rumored about pretty frequently, and even if the newest version of Windows Phone isn’t actually Windows Phone 7.5, it seems that plenty of those features were spot-on. So, now that we (officially) know what’s coming, is Windows Phone something you’re excited about?
There are 500 new features in Windows Phone 7.1, better known as Mango, so there’s plenty to like in this massive update. But, while going over 500 new features may be what some people want to do, I’m just going to go ahead and pick a few that I think are worth mentioning, especially when it comes to adding functionality to bring in new customers. First and foremost, Microsoft’s plan to include new Bing features just makes sense. Features like Bing Vision, Bing Voice and Bing Music Search will make it even easier, and better, to use your Mango-powered smartphone as an all-in-one device. No needing to launch a third-party app to find these things, which makes sense in Microsoft’s approach for Windows Phone.
Other features like a “universal inbox” for your email accounts and multitasking may seem late to the game, but this is a conversation that I think has been beaten to death. Sure, it would have been perfectly possible for Microsoft to include both of these features right out of the box, like many expected them to do, but I think Microsoft wanted to make sure (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that they figured out how to make these things work for Windows Phone, and not just in general. They needed to work for the platform, and not just be a feature that only works some of the time. Whether or not the company has figured those things out for Mango still remain to be seen, though, so hopefully in the next few months we get a nice preview of the new features.
As for the outlying features that I wasn’t expecting, that would be Facebook chat integration. Rumors about the feature being included in future updates of Windows Phone haven’t been rampant or anything, but they’ve certainly been hanging around. And now that Microsoft has made it official, I think Windows Phone has a card up its sleeve that many other platforms would love to have. Sure, you can access Facebook’s chat feature through third-party instant messaging applications, but I think this is just another notch in Microsoft’s belt to show that they’ve got the means to integrate those things with the native OS, and therefore make it simpler for the end user. And the fact that Facebook users will be able to see your online status dynamically, making it easier for them to chat with you while you’re on the go, makes it that much better.
And then we’ve got the obvious upgrades, like to Live Tiles. Microsoft has always been upfront about the fact that Live Tiles would get more dynamic over time, and offer more information for people to glance at. The ideas that Microsoft is playing around with, like the ability to see status updates right from the Live Tiles based on contact is great, especially with the ability to group contacts together. So Mango users will be able to group their school or work contacts together and be able to catch up on what they’re doing right on the fly, whenever they feel the need to. Again, no need to launch a third-party application to make it happen, just glance and go. The inclusion of Internet Explorer 9 with HTML 5 and hardware acceleration are obvious upgrades, and should make the Web browsing experience on Windows Phone even better.
There are a lot changes, and plenty of improvements, coming to Windows Phone, and as long as Microsoft can stick to their update schedule, I think it’s going to make plenty of Windows Phone owners ridiculously happy. And, if Microsoft can sell those new features with plenty of impressive hardware, then I think Microsoft has a real chance to make some headway with their new mobile OS. Of course, it’s worth noting that by the time Mango hits devices it will probably be one full year since the platform’s official launch. So is it better late than never? Let me know what you think some of Mango’s best improvements are. And if you’re waiting to get your hands on a Windows Phone device until Mango hits, which features are you excited to use on a daily basis?