I was fortunate to sit down this morning with Microsoft's Paul Bryan, Windows Phone senior director of product management and enterprise experiences, to discuss the new software at the company's offices in Cambridge, Mass. And I learned quite a few facts that anyone interested in WP7.5 should know.
(Microsoft also provided me with Samsung Focus review device running WP7.5, so you should stay tuned to my Mobile WorkHorse blog for first impressions, video and images of the new software.)
1) The brand new software is no longer called "Mango." That term was an internal codename used during development, and the official name of Microsoft's latest mobile OS is Windows Phone 7.5 (WP7.5)
2) Windows Phone 7.5 is expected to become available on all current Windows Phone devices. There are no new hardware requirements to run the latest OS, though newer devices will be able to take advantage of new software enhancements that will be unavailable on some existing WP7 devices. And all current Windows Phone 7 apps are compatible with WP7.5
3) Microsoft has posted a website that lets you check to see when the Windows Phone 7 software update will be available for your device and/or wireless carrier. The WP7.5 update will be distributed via the Microsoft Zune service and you'll need to tether your device to a PC to download it; the update will not be available wirelessly.
4) The software update includes more than 500 new features and enhancements, many of which are designed to consolidate and integrate various messaging services and provide users with a more unified messaging, social networking and Web experience, according to Bryan.
5) You can now tie contacts' Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to their address book listings, so all communications with those contacts via the two popular social networking services are available in one central location, along with text and e-mail messages.
6) All Windows Phone 7.5 devices will run Microsoft's latest mobile browser, Internet Explorer (IE9), which supports HTML 5 for advanced Web apps and HD video streaming.
7) A new "Bing Vision" app lets you scan QR codes and Microsoft "Tags" to instantly access online information, and the app also has a cool new feature that lets you scan the covers of books to quickly access information on the book, such as author, price, reviews and more. This ability to scan random book covers opens up a new set of possibilities for image scanning in the future via Bing Vision.
8) A new "App Connect" feature for Windows Phone 7.5 developers lets them create complex applications that can be tied to various additional phone functions, including search results, so if a user queries a specific term that's related to an app, he could see that application, or a part of that app, recommended as a result.
App Connect also let developers serve up "richer" content via "live tiles," which users can pin to their home screens to customize their UI experiences. For example, a user who's interested in the new Brad Pitt film, "Moneyball," could not only pin a tile for the Flixster movie application, they could pin a "Moneyball"-specific tile to their home screen for movie information, including reviews, etc., via the Flixster app. (Learn more on the Windows Phone Developer blog)
9) Windows Phone 7 supports both visual voicemail and mobile hotspot, though it will be up to the wireless carriers that sell the device to decided whether or not to enable the features, and/or to charge additional fees for them.
10) Three new hardware manufactures have signed on to build Windows Phone 7.5 devices, including ZTE, Acer and Fujitsu, though it's unclear whether or not any devices from these handset makers will be available in North America, or when. (HTC, Samsung, Dell and Nokia are also Windows Phone partners.)