Microsoft today previewed many of the new features to be included in the upcoming Mango update of Windows Phone 7. Many were impressive, but Mango won't be enough to help Microsoft gain on the iPhone and Android phones.
Microsoft claims that 500 new features will be added, but at today's press rollout, it introduced only the most important ones.
A particularly nice one is the integration of multiple communications services in a single conversational thread. So when communicating with someone, you'll be able to seamlessly switch between text messaging, Facebook chat, and so on.
Even better will be Mango's ability to update live tiles, which are pinned applications that display changing information. At the preview, Computerworld reports, Microsoft showed off an app built by British Airways in which a tile changes to show a user the status of his upcoming flight.
There's a lot more to Mango as well, including the ability to send protected messages that can't be forwarded, an updated version of Office, and more.
All in all, it looks like a very solid update and will make a very good smartphone operating system even better.
But Microsoft needs something more than a very good smartphone operating system. It needs to be much better than iOS or Android, and Mango isn't superior to either of them.
And Microsoft desperately needs Windows Phone 7 to have apps, apps, and more apps, because that's what consumers want. But Windows Phone 7 is still well behind iOS and Android when it comes to apps. At the press event, Microsoft said the Windows Phone Marketplace now has 17,000 apps. By way of contrast, there are now more than 500,000 iOS apps while at the end of May there were just under 300,000 Android apps.
So yes, Microsoft deserves kudos for improving Windows Phone 7. But it's still got a long way to go before it makes headway against iOS and Android.