Microsoft revealed its next Windows phone Update will be available in the fall of 2011 and it’s about to get real. Microsoft proves with the mango update that it quite possibly has created the most intelligent OS, mobile or otherwise. The update is almost all about apps, but not how many apps they have.
It’s about how well they interact, how intelligently they work together, how your phone offers you solutions and not just tools for answering questions. Windows Phone Mango has upwards of 500 features but the press conference focused on a few that revolved around certain aspects of the OS and promised to reveal more as the fall approaches. Let’s take a look at the most intriguing things demoed at the press conference.
Introducing Bing Vision
Bing Vision is a new Bing feature that is mind blowing in its simplicity. It’s a browser control that’s shaped like a human eye. You click it to view and scan an item with the phone’s camera. The example used on the conference was a Miley Cyrus book. Bing Vision took a moment to focus on the cover and then immediately returned search results. One of the results was an Amazon return and once clicked, WP7 Mango determined that the Amazon app was available on the phone and launched it. This is a huge thing with Mango, its ability to intelligently link necessary apps and limit the need for excessive navigation.
Better (or just having) App switching
A new feature to look forward to is an easy way to switch between and among recent apps. Pressing and holding the back button opens a screen of recent app tiles that can be swiped. The apps aren’t actually running in the background, but they are resumed once chosen.
App Connect slings hubs goodness
Windows Phone 7 takes steps to more fully integrate apps in the hubs and browser so that users can access them more easily. It is almost, though not quite, a de-emphasizing of the app store and the start screen. An example given during the press conference involving a movie search offers the best example.
When the user searches Bing for a movie listing, the normal search results appear. However the user will be able to swipe to see a hub that shows all the compatible apps installed on the phone, like IMDB or Netflix. The user can enter the app to view reviews, ratings, etc. It will be able to pull up location based show times, links for purchasing tickets, or depending on the app, a link to purchase and/or watch. WP7 will also suggest apps that you don’t have but could be useful with this sort of information.
Microsoft will also support things like restaurants, books, people, and events. You’ll be able to swipe to see relevant apps in a separate screen in the Picture, and Music + Video hubs as well. They’re calling it “App Connect” and developers will be given access to an app programming interface so that they can make this work. Once they update their apps to enable App Connect, those apps can appear in the hubs and in Bing search results.
There was more, and will be more
I had to make a conscious decision to stop here. The press conference offered more. It offered much more. It spoke about Xbox Live integration (native handling of the avatar rather than through an app); it talked about enhancements to hubs; office integration and skydrive; it introduced IE9 on the phone. Now this wasn’t some gimped mobile browser, it was the full deal, with all the power IE9 on the desktop has, all the hardware integration, rendering the real web on your phone.
As Ballmer mentioned, there are over 500 new features and this press conference clearly wasn’t enough time to reveal all of them, just a few highlights to illustrate the direction Redmond is going. I should also mention that during the press conference they mentioned that they already have WP7 running on a Nokia device in their labs. So we may actually see Nokia branded phones before the end of the year. However, this press release was not about hardware.
The message is clear. Microsoft isn’t just trying to build the best Mobile OS out there. It’s trying to build the most intelligent Mobile OS. The strategy seems to be to network everything, create a truly immersive experience, and free you from having to treat your phone as a complex multi-tool instead of an intuitive extension of you. Whether or not WP7 ever catches up in adoption to iOS and Android, or even Blackberry, the fact remains that this is currently the most advanced Mobile OS on the planet.
It is the first truly unique and innovative piece of software that Microsoft has produced in a very long time, and I for one can’t wait till the fall to get my hands on these updates. I would not be pretentious in saying WP7, as it stands is already the most intelligently designed OS on the market. In a few months, it’ll both be the most intelligently designed and the most intelligent… at least until the next iteration of Android… maybe. Right now, from a technical standpoint (though not at all from a commercial one) the pressure is on Apple to make iOS something truly special in the next iteration of the iPhone.
You can watch a video demo of the key features in the Mango update by Joe Belfiore on the next page.