Microsoft's next update to Windows Phone ties handsets even more tightly into the company's online services while stitching together Facebook with Redmond's email and instant messaging.
Codenamed Mango, the next Windows Phone operating system upgrades Hubs for Office and Xbox, the company said in a Tuesday webcast. The new Office Hub will connect to Microsoft's Office 365 and SkyDrive services.
Office 365 gives you email, calendar, and contacts all based on Microsoft Exchange, and Office Web Apps – the hosted, cut-down version of Office, both for businesses. SkyDrive lets consumers store and share Office docs and photos.
A new Xbox 360 hub will let gamers edit their avatar for the phone, and connect to Xbox Live to play games from the phone against those on the console, plus access Xbox Live features such as status updates and high scores.
As expected, Internet Explorer 9 is the operating system's browser, and through the browser Microsoft is increasing mobile users' dependence upon its Bing search engine.
Bing will use the phone's location to serve up information on local shops and services. Quick Cards will pull back related information on searches such as films – information like reviews and cinema show times – while Application Connect will route you to related applications that serve up other information so you don't need to go back out on the web. For films, Bing on Windows Phone will take you to IMDb.
Both features were demonstrated at Microsoft's MIX developer conference in April.
Mango will thread together Windows Live Messenger and Facebook Chat communications, and switch between talking to the same person on and offline. There's also support for LinkedIn and Twitter, and you will be able to manage conversations via a new feature called Groups, an extension of the existing Hubs, only you group together friends, family, and colleagues along with any and all communications and photos in relation to them.
Microsoft's love affair with digital rights management (DRM) for documents continues with Mango: you will be able to set permissons on email that stop people from forwarding or printing things such as embarrassing or compromising company memos and plans.
The president of Microsoft's mobile communications business Andy Lees said Mango would provide more integration between communications and applications than rival's phones. He also reckoned that Mango will be the tipping point for the Windows Phone ecosystem, as Mango will let third-parties' apps talk to the operating system. Lees also announced that the beta edition of the Mango developer tools are available now. You can read more here.
Expanding that ecosystem, Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE were named as planning to launch Windows Phone smartphones running Mango. Nokia will ship its first Windows Phone on Mango, Microsoft said. All four join existing Windows Phone partners that the company said will ship Mango phones.
There's still no date for Mango, beyond "Fall".
The changes are snapshot of updates, first unveiled at MIX in Las Vegas, Nevada, here. A total of 500 changes are due in Mango, Microsoft claimed. ®
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