Microsoft will release the first major update to Windows Phone 7 this fall, and it’s going to have a much faster Web browser and improvements that could make for much better apps.Today at MIX, a conference for Web developers, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore explained some of the highlights:
- Faster browsing. The same code that Microsoft used for IE9 on the desktop is coming to the phone. That means that Web pages will load much faster, particularly if they use HTML 5 for interactive apps, audio, and video. Belfiore showed a Windows Phone with Mango loading an interactive Web page slightly faster than an Android phone and way faster than the iPhone. He also showed full-screen playback for HTML5 video, and HTML5 audio playing in the background even when the user is in other apps.
- Cooler apps. When Windows Phone launched last fall, Microsoft exercised tight control over third-party apps to make sure poorly written apps wouldn’t crash the phone and hurt the user experience. Mango will be a little looser, giving developers more direct access to phone hardware like the camera and ringer, a new “Motion Sensor” API to access both the compass and gyro at the same time (good for motion-sensing apps), and background functions like file download and audio playback even when the user is in another app. This should help developers build more interesting apps for the platform.
- Easier to get to apps. One of Microsoft’s big goals with Windows Phone is to let users get into apps more quickly, without always having to go back to the home screen and click a new icon for each new app. Mango will extend this idea with features like Search Extras, which will integrate apps into search results. For instance, if users search for a movie title, a third-party app might be able to show movie previews in an “Extras” pane next to search results. Another highlight: developers will be able to take a particular FEATURE of an app — like the bar code scanner in Amazon’s app — and create a live tile on the Windows Phone home page that links to that feature.
Belfiore also said that European streaming music service Spotify is coming to the phone later this year, and confirmed that Angry Birds will ship for it on May 25.
The company did not say anything about when Windows Phone 7 will be coming to Verizon. A rumoured March release didn’t happen, but Microsoft has said that it will ship for Verizon by the end of June.
The live presentation is streaming here. We’ll post the keynote video as soon as Microsoft makes it available.