'Mango' Update for Windows Phone 7 Begins Rolling Out
Microsoft announced it is now distributing Windows Phone 7.5, code-named "Mango," worldwide to mobile service providers.
However, this free smartphone update will only be available to 10 percent of customers this week. The distribution will be gradually broadened if "everything looks good," according to Eric Hautala, a Microsoft general manager on the customer experience engineering team.
Hautala, in a blog post, explained that the update contains Mango plus other updates, including firmware updates from smartphone manufacturers, and that's why a gradual release approach is being taken. Mango will be released in a second stage to 25 percent of users and held "for one or two weeks." After that period, the release will be opened to 100 percent of users.
Windows Phone 7 customers can expect to get a message that Mango can be downloaded within about four weeks. Hautala previously explained in an earlier blog post that users will need either Zune software for PCs or the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac installed in order to perform the Mango update.
Microsoft offers a phone update tracker for the U.S. market here, which currently shows all mobile carriers as delivering the Mango update. However, as noted above, these notices just mean that the carriers have started to deliver the updates to some users, but not necessarily to all users.
Mango is Microsoft's biggest update release so far. It adds expected features such as multitasking, which apparently has little effect on draining the phone's battery power, according to this Microsoft blogger. The Mango update also includes Internet Explorer 9 Mobile, which uses the same rendering engine as Microsoft's desktop version of IE 9. The mobile version of the browser can tap into the power of the hardware and supports HTML 5-based graphics, allowing video to run without browser plug-ins such as Flash and Silverlight. One other difference with IE 9 Mobile is that Microsoft has moved the address bar to the bottom of the screen and tucked away access to tabs and favorite sites. That seemingly radical change to the mobile browser was based on Microsoft's research about user preferences, as this blog explains.
The Mango update also includes a new synchronization capability with Office 365, which is Microsoft's cloud-based suite of applications delivered as services. Synchronization support also works with SkyDrive, which is Microsoft's free 25 GB of storage and sharing space in the cloud. SharePoint synchronization is also supported with this Mango release.
The Speech feature in Mango lets smartphone users command their phones via speech commands. Voice commands such a "call," "text," "find" and "open" can be spoken as verbs with some objective in mind, enabling hands-free operations in many cases.
Mango also includes threading capabilities across social networking apps, instant messaging and texting. Users can start a conversation using one app and then finish it in another app, and the conversation will stay in a single thread. The same conversation grouping capabilities in the desktop version of Outlook 2010 are available in the Mango update for Windows phones. Microsoft provides a full list of the new Mango features at this page.
Microsoft doesn't seem to describing the build number for this Mango update. The build prior to this release was Build 7392, which was released in April. It fixed a security problem with a certificate.
Microsoft also opened up its Windows Phone Marketplace today. The Marketplace offers free apps as well as apps that get charged to a Windows Live ID account backed by a credit card, as this blog explains.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.