What's in store for 'Mango' Windows Phone 7 users?

Windows Phone 7 users will likely see the latest operating system update, dubbed "Mango," this fall, now that Microsoft has released the update to its device manufacturing partners. Among the features users will see are the Internet Explorer 9 mobile browser, access to Microsoft's cloud services and, probably, Twitter integration.

Original equipment manufacturers can now start incorporating the mobile operating system update into their new smart-phone products. Microsoft has said Mango's "general availability" would be in the fall. 

Users have experienced past delays getting two earlier Windows Phone 7 updates, and Microsoft has attributed those delays to the testing needs of OEM and mobile service provider partners. Consequently, the true availability of the Mango update to the public likely will vary for users, perhaps by as long as a month.

Even though Microsoft has forecast the fall arrival of Mango, that expectation might not hold true in Japan. A report by the Nikkei newspaper indicated that Mango, also called "Windows Phone 7.5," would be available to consumers via the Toshiba-Fujitsu IS12T device in late August. According to this TNW story, preparations are being made to unveil that phone tomorrow in Japan, or at 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time on Tuesday, with streaming video available at this page.

Microsoft did not clarify by press time whether the launch and availability timeline for Mango in Japan might also be reflected in U.S. markets. Via a spokesperson, Microsoft issued this statement: "We are on track to deliver Mango later this year. Stay tuned for more news as we get closer to that time."

Mango notably will include the IE 9 browser, called "IE9 Mobile", as well as access to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud-based storage and file-sharing service. Twitter integration has also been projected as one of the forthcoming improvements.

Microsoft's announcement of the release-to-manufacturing stage for Mango means that the engineering team is done with tweaking IE9 Mobile, which uses the same rendering engine as its PC cousin. IE9 Mobile notably will be capable of tapping into the device's hardware acceleration resources to support HTML 5-based graphics and video. Microsoft shows off some examples at its mobile test drive for IE9 Mobile.

In general, Microsoft has been promoting the use of JavaScript and HTML 5 for the creation of applications, especially for its upcoming Windows 8 OS. Supposedly, that approach will make it easier for developers to port their applications onto different platforms.

Developers working with Mango face a shift from Internet Explorer 7 to IE9 Mobile, which "impacts the core HTML, JS, and CSS handling across the entire OS," according to a Microsoft blog post on application compatibility. There are also some memory use and Silverlight control issues to note with the move to Mango.

Microsoft previously released a Mango beta, as well as a second beta of the Window Phone 7 software development kit, in late June. The new beta 2 SDK added improvements to the profiler, emulator and isolated storage explorer. Changes were made that affect the behavior of Silverlight 4 APIs in Windows Phone 7 Mango. Since the documentation on those changes isn't published yet, Microsoft summarized the API differences in this blog for developers to review.

Last week, Microsoft announced changes to its App Hub portal, which is Microsoft's marketplace for developers to sell their Windows Phone 7 software products. One benefit for Developers is that they got expanded App Hub access in seven new markets. Consumer availability to purchase App Hub products was expanded to 19 new countries. Microsoft also announced that international availability of its pubCenter -- a platform that enables advertisements to run within applications -- will be expanded to 18 countries by the end of this year.

Those pubCenter countries include "Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom," according to Microsoft's announcement.

The new App Hub also enables developers to control releases of their software by specifying beta distributions and targeted distributions. Developers also get a few new app management tools, including a dashboard that shows app performance measurements. The app submission process has been streamlined as well to enable bulk uploads of art files.

Microsoft plans to issue Windows Phone 7 "release candidate" tools in late August, and those tools will be required for developers to upload their Mango apps to Microsoft's App Hub, according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft is recommending that app developers publish to the new Marketplace today, but that game developers should wait until late August to do so. Country-by-country app prices should be reviewed by developers. Finally, developers should submit their Mango apps to App Hub in late August.

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