April 13, 2011 at 7:22 PM ET
Looks like Microsoft is getting serious about its next version of Windows Phone, the version that will have multitasking, third-party "Live Tiles" and other cool features. But the software giant isn't promising any quick updates: Developers will get tools in May, then the next version will reach consumers "by the end of this year." This happens to coincide with the promised launch of Nokia's Windows Phone models. Perhaps that's the point. Perhaps Microsoft is biding its time.
The next version, codenamed "Mango," seems pretty nice, though not exactly unexpected. The key features are:
This discussion, delivered publicly at a Microsoft developers conference by Windows Phone chief Joe Belfiore, was aimed at, yep, developers. There was no flashy demonstration of the next Windows Phone look and feel, no show-and-tell of pretty hardware that may never see the light of day. It was shop talk, plus apologies.
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According to Jay Greene at Cnet, Belfiore shared a mea culpa for several minor bungles, including screwing up the first WP7 update back in February, and announcing that all phones had been updated when they hadn't.
But Microsoft can afford to be apologetic right now, because they're in an off year. Besides apology, caution is the other theme:
"Today, we’re telling developers about the set of Windows Phone Developer Tools coming next month for Mango," wrote Matt Bencke, head of developer and marketplace for Windows Phone, on a Microsoft blog. "We’re also talking about steps we’ve taken to extend the reach that developers will have with the next version of Windows Phone. What we aren’t doing is demonstrating UI or end user features and capabilities. Today is about preparing developers for the next opportunity."
Let's face it — even people who are very interested in Windows Phone are likely to wait until Nokia has popped a device. And meanwhile, the pickins are almost deliberately slim: The only impressive Windows Phone 7 device in the U.S. remains the Samsung Focus, and it's only at AT&T. Where they sell a lot of iPhones. For those who have already bought in, Belfiore shared a nice consolation: Angry Birds (finally) comes to WP7 on May 25.
Microsoft has had periods like this before: Before Windows 7 launched, before Xbox 360 launched, even now, as it repositions its "slate" strategy in the iPad-dominated tablet business. By and large, these soft periods have benefitted the company. If Windows Phone and Nokia time it right, and go big, they may grab customers in a major way. They just won't be grabbing many customers in the meantime.
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