Microsoft Preps 'Mango' Update for Release
The imminent release marks the first major update of the Windows Phone 7 platform.
The first major update to Microsoft's struggling Windows Phone 7 smartphones is scheduled for release in the coming weeks. Code-named "Mango", the upgrade looks to close the functionality gap between Windows Phones and those of its rivals, the iPhone and Android.
The first major update arrives a year after the launch in October 2010. The Mango update adds multitasking, multiple live tiles, app connect and "fast" application switching, among other features.
The rollout announcement, which attempts to narrow the estimated timing of the updates for existing Windows Phone customers, comes on the same day as a report in the Wall St. Journal's AllThingsD blog that Apple is likely to unveil iPhone 5 at a "special event" on Oct. 4.
According to Eric Hautala, Microsoft general manager of customer experience engineering, who made the "Mango" rollout announcement in the Windows Phone blog on Wednesday:
"I'll have more details to share about the update once it begins in the next week or two. But by "roll out" I mean we'll be starting the actual delivery process -- emphasis on starting."
Microsoft released the Mango operating system to manufacturing in July. The company released a Mango Beta 2 Refresh (Build 7712) for developers in conjunction with the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK Beta 2 Refresh, one day after Mango was released to manufacturing. In mid August, the company offered the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 Release Candidate with a "Go Live" license. The Windows Phone SDK 7.1 includes all the tools for building Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5 apps, according to Microsoft.
Mango RTM for Developers
Developers will receive the Mango RTM on developer phones from their mobile operators. On Wednesday, Microsoft indicated it will provide Mango RTM update instructions to developers using Mango Beta 2. The company hasn't released the final version of the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK for Mango.
Microsoft started to certify Mango application updates and new submissions in the App Hub last month. The company created some controversy, however, when it announced plans to freeze Windows Phone 7.0 app updates when the Mango 7.5 versions of applications were published in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Developers expressed concerns because the release schedule of Windows Phone operating system updates has varied dramatically by carrier and handset manufacturer. In the case of "NoDo", a minor update to Windows Phone 7.0, some Windows Phone consumers had not received it four months after initial rollouts in March.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced in the Windows Phone Developer blog that based on developer feedback, it is changing its policy. By the end of October, according to Todd Brix, senior director of Windows Phone Marketplace, Microsoft will provide functionality in its App Hub that allows developers to publish updates to 7.0 and 7.5 versions of their apps. The company is also providing "New for 7.5" screenshots and text overlay graphics that developers can use to help consumers identify Mango applications. The graphics and screenshots meet app certification requirements, according to Brix.
In anticipation of new devices supporting Mango from key partners such as Nokia, Microsoft is increasing its efforts to attract Nokia Symbian developers to Windows Phone. On Wednesday, Microsoft started its Nokia Windows Phone Training roadshow for Symbian developers. First stop: Paris. The company is also releasing materials to help Nokia Symbian developers get up to speed on developing applications for Windows Phone. Microsoft added Symbian Qt to the Windows Phone Mapping API and is promoting a 100-page white paper, Windows Phone Guide for Symbian Qt Application Developers.
At its BUILD conference last week, Microsoft reported that it had 50,000 registered developers for Windows Phone and roughly 30,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. AT&T also announced plans last week to offer three Mango phones: HTC Titan and Samsung Focus S and Focus Flash devices. Mango phones are already available in Japan and Russia.
Matt Bencke, general manager for Windows Phone apps, blogged about Metro style apps on Windows Phone and the PC, and alluded to what developers can expect with the next-gen mobile platform:
"As the Windows Phone Runtime evolves, we plan to align the PC and Windows Phone platforms as much as possible. For example as demonstrated [at BUILD], developers will soon be able to easily share XAML and C# code between the PC and Windows Phone. And for developers building Windows Phone apps today, those apps will work on Mango and on the next major release of Windows Phone as well."
Existing Window Phone customers will need to have the latest Zune 4.8 software, released in August, to support Mango updates. The Zune software now supports 22 display languages, more countries and regions and helps streamline the update and backup process, according to Microsoft. In the coming weeks, Windows Phone customers can check the Where's my phone update table for more information on mobile operators' Mango delivery schedules.
Kathleen Richards is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.