May 23, 2011 at 1:38 PM ET
Microsoft will take the wraps off the next version of Windows Phone, code-named “Mango,” during a special event in New York City on Tuesday morning. CEO Steve Ballmer offered a teaser over the weekend at a Microsoft conference in Japan, saying the upgrade will add more than 500 new features — a much bigger number than suggested by early leaks about the phone's features.
That means we’ll soon be hit with a flood of new information about Windows Phone. One area to watch, as a litmus test: How well has Microsoft improved the integration of Xbox Live since the original Windows Phone release?
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The ability to take advantage of Xbox Live and the Xbox 360 has always been a potential secret weapon for Microsoft in the mobile business. The initial mobile games for Windows Phone felt very much like a first step, bringing the Xbox Live brand, avatars, scores and other basic features to Microsoft’s mobile platform, but stopping well short of what the technology could allow.
In March, for example, the company showed a video depicting Windows Phone as an alternative controller/input for the Xbox 360, in conjunction with the Kinect motion controller. The video was described at the time as a technology preview, with no timeframe for release.
Game-related leaks about Mango have been cryptic, including an image showing a new automatic sync setting for games. It's not clear if the Kinect integration is ready yet, but one way or another, Microsoft needs to do something big with the “Mango” release.
The latest numbers from the Gartner research firm show a mere 1.6 million Windows Phones selling to end users in the first quarter — fewer even than the 2 million units recorded by Windows Mobile, its predecessor, in the same time frame. That compared with nearly 17 million iPhones, more than 27 million Symbian smartphonesand 36 million Android smartphones.
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