Now that we have officially announced details on the next major release of Windows Phone “Mango” which will be made available this fall, I’d like to start a series of posts to help outline the many details of what’s coming with this release.  With today’s public announcement, (feel free to read it here), there’s a tremendous amount of information that will start to be made publicly available, so let’s start with the basics:

What is “Mango?”

In case you’re not familiar with this codename, this is the internal Microsoft name of the software development project that will be the next major release of Windows Phone 7.  This release as mentioned above will be made available this fall to all Windows Phone 7 devices as well as a number of new handsets that are expected to debut this fall from manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, HTC, Nokia, Fujitsu, Acer and ZTE.  If you are a Developer, the Beta Software Development Kit or SDK for Windows Phone “Mango” was made available today and can be downloaded here.  This update adds many new features to Windows Phone which I will start to outline further below.

What’s New with “Mango?”

As mentioned at today’s press conference, there’s over 500 new features coming with this update to Windows Phone and to start out we’re sharing details in three key areas, Communications, A Smarter Approach to Apps, and Internet Beyond the Browser.

In the area of Communications, the goal here is to make it easier to connect and share using your mobile device.  In today’s Smartphone experience it is commonplace to experience a sea of disconnected apps and accounts as we try to stitch together all the ways we communicate and interact with our friends and family, from calls, texts, email and IM to status updates, Tweets, check-ins, photo posting and tagging.  To help people stay on top of that growing complexity, the Mango release organizes information around the person or group people want to interact with, not the app they have to use.  Windows Phone Mango will add:

Threads. Switch between text, Facebook chat, and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation.

Groups. Group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see the latest status updates right from the start screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to the whole group.

Deeper social network integration. Twitter and Linked In feeds are now integrated into contact cards, and Mango includes built-in Facebook check-ins and new face detection software that makes it easier to quickly tag photos and post to the Web.

Linked Inbox. See multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Conversations are organized to make it easy to stay on top of the latest mail.

Hands-free messaging. Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting.

When referring to A Smarter Approach to Apps, Windows Phone 7 started down this path by integrating commonly used application functionality (i.e. Facebook contacts, Outlook Contacts, etc.) into a single People Hub which starts to challenge the way people look at apps in general.  An application’s usefulness is often measured by what can be done within the app, but we see the promise of apps in how they can be integrated directly into the core experiences of the phone.  In addition to making it easier to get timely notifications and updates from apps right from the Start Screen, the Mango release will also surface apps as part of search results and within Windows Phone Hubs.  As a result, a useful app is more likely to be right there when you need it.  Windows Phone Mango will add:

App Connect. By connecting apps to search results and deepening their integration with Windows Phone Hubs, including Music and Video and Pictures, Mango allows apps to be surfaced when and where they make sense. 

Improved Live Tiles. Get real-time information from apps without having to open them.  Live Tiles are more dynamic and can hold more information.

Multitasking. Quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background while helping to preserve battery life and performance.

Finally, when talking about Internet Beyond the Browser, in addition to adding the blazing-fast Internet Explorer 9 with full hardware acceleration to Windows Phone, , the Mango release will connect the power of the Web to the unique capabilities of your phone, such as location awareness, camera and access to apps, to present a new way of viewing the Web that is more localized, actionable and relevant.  Windows Phone Mango will add:

Local Scout. Provides hyper-local search results and recommends nearby restaurants, shopping and activities in an easy- to-use guide.

Bing on Windows Phone. More ways to search the Web, including Bing Vision, Music Search and Voice so it’s easy to discover and decide.

Quick Cards. When searching for a product, movie, event or place see a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps.

What Else about “Mango” was mentioned at TechEd?

The Windows Team Blog has a number of posts on some of the features demoed at TechEd NorthAmerica 2011.  Being a collaboration guy, one of my favorites was Productivity takes a big step forward in Mango.  In this post, they show off a few of my favorite new features like:

  • Pinnable email folders: Pin a folder to the start screen for quick access. This could be an email folder for a specific project, from a specific group or person (like your boss), or an RSS feed you’ve set up in Outlook.
  • Conversation view in email: Emails in your inbox are organized by conversation, bringing replies to a thread into a consolidated view so it’s faster and easier to stay on top of the conversation.
  • Server search: Search your email server (e.g. Exchange Server) for older emails no longer stored on your phone, giving you ready access to all of your mail.
  • Lync: Lync Mobile brings the Lync experience to Windows Phone customers by delivering Unified Communications capabilities, including instant messaging and the ability to see the presence of your co-workers. The Lync app will be a free download from Windows Phone Marketplace and will be enabled with support from your business organization.

To see Windows Phone Mango in action, there’s a very informative 10 minute video out on YouTube that shows many of these features as well.  Check it out:

 

What’s this about FREE Music?

One of my favorite recent finds was that AT&T is giving away a 3 Month Zune Pass with the purchase of any Windows Phone 7 device between May 1st and June 26th 2011 while supplies last.  What’s a Zune Pass you ask?  A Zune Pass is a subscription to the revolutionary Zune Music service, where you can listen to any of the 11+ Million Songs available to stream or download without limits during your subscription. Zune Pass allows you to listen to music on your Windows Phone 7 device, your Xbox 360 console or your PC using the absolutely fantastic Zune software.  THE BEST OF ALL, with the Zune Pass service you get to keep 10 songs a month, so with a 3 Month Zune Pass, that’s 30 FREE songs.  Details on the offer are at http://www.freezunemusicnow.com/.  Very cool indeed.