News from the Windows Phone 7 VIP Event

The rumor mills have been working overtime chattering on about an upcoming update for the Windows Phone 7 platform. Seeking to formally announce the update as well as preview it to the press, Microsoft held a specialized event a couple of days ago.

In the aforementioned Windows Phone 7 VIP Preview Event, Microsoft unleashed a ton of information about the future of its mobile platform. Join me after the jump to find out more about the highlights of the event!

The Mango Update

Important features of the  Mango update

Important features of the Mango update

Ahh, yes, the mythical update to the Windows Phone 7 platform. Slapped with the slightly humorous code name Mango, it’s been called everything from version 7.1 to 7.5. The ‘intertubes’ have been buzzing with speculation that this single update will be the main focus of the entire event and that has turned out to be mostly true.

Microsoft totes a massive, teetering on overwhelming, 500+ features with the update. Of course, not all of them are big changes and few of them will be visible to the end user. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

Multi-service Threads

Multiservice threads

Multiservice threads

All communication with a specific person should be present in a single thread irrespective of the service or technology being used to actually make it happen. This is pretty much what the Mango update brings to the table.

Continuing a conversation started through text on Facebook chat and resuming it through Windows Messenger sounds rather exciting!

Groups

Groups in action

Groups in action

Groups are meant to streamline the way you communicate and consume content when it relates to a bunch of people. Need to know what’s up with your closest friends? Create a group with just them and see all their latest Tweets, Facebook statuses on the fly. Need to let them know something? It’s just a single tap away.

Basically, think of them as mini mailing lists but with two way communication.

Tighter Social Integration

The social network your phone can hook into

The social network your phone can hook into

One of those features that everyone was expecting is improved integration between the different social networks and the core OS.

Thanks to tighter integration between the services, thinkgs like Facebook events and assorted data from other social networks can now automagically show up on your phone. This also means that communication through other channels will now be treated as a first class citizen now, residing alongside traditional texts and emails.

Multitasking

Finally. Yay!

Finally. Yay!

Color me overjoyed. A proper smartphone needs multitasking and I’m really glad Microsoft stepped up. +1 nerd cred.

More Awesome Live Tiles

The tiles that populate your home screen have always been one of the most distinctive features of Windows Phones. As opposed to the grid based icons used by the other platforms, the tiles not only look catchy but also let you glean information very quickly.

Until now, the idea has had a limited implementation even though Microsoft has stood by its promise that Live Tiles will only get more dynamic, and useful, in the future. The groups feature I mentioned above leverages this functionality perfectly.

Tighter Integration with Bing

Bing Vision in action

Bing Vision in action

Bing will now be more tightly integrated with the OS. The two major additions are called Bing Audio and Bing Vision.

Bing Audio is equivalent to Shazam or SoundHound. Basically, hold up your phone to music you’d like to identify and the app does the rest. Nifty! Bing Vision lets you look up items by scanning its bar or QR code.

Improved Voice Control

Even though it sounds fairly gimmicky, having texts or email read out to you and then dictating a reply is going to be extremely handy. Just imagine how much simpler it’d be for people who commute in a car or make use of public transportation.

Or in my case, texting when crushing some noob is finally possible!

Obvious Upgrades

Speed reading contest

Speed reading contest

There are, of course, a number of obvious upgrades that deserve a mention. This includes IE9 on the phone, a revamped keyboard and a unified inbox among others.

More Handsets

Current+upcoming manufacturers

Current+upcoming manufacturers

The platform launched with 10 devices on show. Now, 7 months after launch, the number hasn’t increased drastically. That’s going to come to an end very soon.

You can expect new offerings from the current hardware providers, LG, Samsung and HTC, as well as from the newcomers to the platform, Fujitsu, Acer and ZTE. Keep in mind that Nokia and Dell are expected to ship their devices very soon as well.

A Web Based Marketplace

A web based marketplace

A web based marketplace

Though this wasn’t formally announced at the event, Microsoft has announced that a new web based marketplace is soon going to be introduced that lets you purchase and download apps over the air.

As is the norm these days, the marketplace will have full social sharing functionality along with a download history so you can move apps between phones.

Closing Thoughts

There is plenty of data to parse here but basically it can be broken down to: more features and more handsets. As long as Microsoft sticks to what they say they’re gonna do, users like me are going to be plenty satisfied with the platform.

If they can ship the update soon enough and pair it with current gen hardware, I think Microsoft has a very real chance of going toe to toe with the current mobile heavyweights.

Let me know what you think some of Mango’s best improvements are. And if you’re waiting to get your hands on a Windows Phone device until Mango hits, which features are you excited to use on a daily basis?