Steve Ballmer gave a date for the long-awaited copy and paste update for Windows Phone 7 in his Mobile World Congress keynote; the ‘NoDo’ update (it may be a reference to ‘not Donut’ – the Android 2.0 release) which also makes it faster to switch back to the previous app will be available for all Windows Phones in the first two weeks of March.
(The same update will add support for CDMA networks in the US and Verizon and Sprint will have Windows Phone handsets in the first half of 2011.)
And in the second half of 2011 there will be a more significant update, which Windows Phone VP Joe Belfiore confirmed will also run on existing devices; “all these features will be in the free update for all Windows Phone users later this year”.
There will be more feature announcements (perhaps at the MIX conference in April), but the features that are confirmed so far are more than the expected third-party multitasking.
Microsoft promised Twitter integration in the People hub long before the launch of Windows Phone 7; tweets from your contacts will finally show up alongside updates from Facebook and Windows Live in the second update.
And like Facebook updates, you’ll be able to reply from the People hub and see what other friends have commented.
PEOPLE TWEET: Tweets will show up alongside Facebook updates in the People hub
The Windows Phone 7 browser gets a major update at the same time, with the core engine from IE9, HTML5 support, SmartScreen filtering, Do Not Track ad-blocking and hardware acceleration.
Internet Explorer VP Dean Hachamovitch calls it “the same IE9 browsing engine—the same code, the same standards support, the same hardware acceleration, the same security and privacy protections” and claims that results for (official) standards tests will be “very similar”.
MOBILE IE9: The same HTML 5 browsing engine as IE9 on Windows
HARDWARE ACCELERATION: Safari on iPhone doesn’t use hardware acceleration so IE9 on Windows Phone 7 has 50 GPU-accelerated fish zipping around the screen here, compared to far fewer with software-only rendering
Although Adobe is still talking up Flash for Windows Phone 7 for the future, Microsoft may be hoping to avoid the issue with support for the HTML5 Video tag; using hardware acceleration, Windows Phone 7 will play H.264 video natively in the browser at HD resolution.
And like IE9 on the desktop, hardware acceleration will apply to more than just video, so web apps should be pretty responsive.
VIDEO NOT FLASH: A mockup of an IMDB film trailer site with HD H.264 videos that play directly in the browser courtesy of the Video tag
Windows Phone 7 already connects to SkyDrive for syncing OneNote notebooks, but you can’t currently save Word and Excel documents you create on the phone to SkyDrive (just the private business equivalent, SharePoint).
In the Windows Phone 7 update, there will be a new tab in the Office hub called Locations that lets you navigate to local documents, SharePoint sites, your own SkyDrive – and shared folders from other SkyDrive users that you have access to.
Each location looks like the current Documents tab with titles and icons but the Documents tab changes to look like the OneNote tab, with a unified view of recent files from multiple locations presented as colour-coded tiles.
CLOUDY DOCUMENTS: SkyDrive shows up as a document location and you can see shared folders on your phone
There is multitasking in the current version of Windows Phone 7, but only Microsoft apps can use it.
In the second update third-party apps will have more options for running in the background (although again we have to wait until MIX for the technical details of how this will work and what’s involved).
Belfiore did sound a note of caution: “Generally we don’t multitask third party apps because we want to make sure the user has predictable long life on battery. When apps run in the background, if you’re not careful they can drain the battery. We’re going to ship what we think is a multitasking environment that we think does the right balance of protecting battery and enabling multitasking.”
CHANGE APPS: Press and hold on the Back button to see thumbnails of the apps you’re using
Media apps will be able to play music in the background when you switch away to another app and you’ll be able to control the volume or pause playback using the volume buttons (currently this only works for the native media player). This will work for apps streaming music as well as playing tracks already on the phone.
Switching back to the app you were just using will be far faster because of multitasking (using the Back button to return to your game after a phone call or going back to Twitter after you’ve followed a web link, for example).
And pressing and holding the Back button will bring up a list of currently running apps (as on iPhone and Android) with what look like live thumbnails of the apps rather than icons (unlike iPhone and Android).
This is more of a sneak peek than a feature announcement. Belfiore showed a video of using a Windows Phone – or even two Windows Phones – as additional controllers for an Xbox with Kinect.
Tapping on your phone screen to play against an opponent who can move their whole body wouldn’t make for a very balanced gaming experience, so this is more about setting challenges (or in this case, hurling balls at people).
KINECT YOUR PHONE: Using Windows Phone as an additional controller, you can see the recognised ‘skeleton’ of the Kinect player to aim at
“This isn’t the full story,” said Belfiore. There will be more than these five features in the update (and Windows president Andy Lees promised “other capabilities” for multi-tasking) –indeed, this update may also include whatever Nokia is adding to Windows Phone 7 for its first handsets, but that’s all Microsoft is ready to talk about until April.
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