Microsoft is shipping the next version of its mobile phone platform and the first phone with it will be available in September.The company announced the release to manufacturing of Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” yesterday, and Japanese mobile carrier KDDI announced this morning that it would begin selling the first Mango phone, the waterproof Fujitsu IS12T, in September.
That’s a little bit sooner than the fall release Microsoft had promised — at one point, CEO Steve Ballmer hinted that the first Windows Phones would begin to appear around Christmas.
Mango adds some features that will catch Windows Phone up with other platforms, like visual voicemail and app multitasking, plus a lot of unique touches, like deep integration with social networks and a “local scout” feature that tells you things to do in your neighbourhood.
Will any of this matter? Windows Phone had a lot of unique features when it launched last fall, yet has only managed to grab 1% market share.
Microsoft’s bigger problem with Windows Phone is distribution — carriers are basically ignoring it.
The Nokia deal could help solve that problem — Nokia is still the number-one handset maker (barely) worldwide, and has longstanding relationships with lots of carriers. Microsoft is also going to open at least 75 more stores, giving consumers more places to go and test the phones out and see how they’re different from the iPhone and Android.
But the Nokia deal won’t really kick off until next year — the company hopes to have one Windows Phone model out this year, but isn’t guaranteeing it — and the retail push is set to take place over two or three years.
In other words, this is going to be another tough Christmas for Windows Phone.
Meanwhile, a person on the Windows Phone team says Microsoft already hard at work on the NEXT version of Windows Phone. That’s good news for Windows Phone developers — it means that Windows 8 won’t spell the immediate end of the Windows Phone platform, although Microsoft has said that the two platforms will merge eventually.
Meanwhile, here’s a video of the first Windows Phone from KDDI and Fujitsu: