Although Windows Phone 7 is an underdog in the smartphone fight, Microsoft hopes it can woo developers with new features to make apps more exciting. In addition to showing features of this fall's "Mango" update on Wednesday, Microsoft promised development tools that will become available in May. Here's a look at how Microsoft hopes to improve Windows Phone 7 in the coming months.
Finding apps among a massive list can be a problem if you've installed a lot of them, so Microsoft is adding a jump list and a search function to its app menu. The former takes you to all apps that start with a given letter, and the latter is a traditional text search, with the option to jump into the Marketplace.
Windows Phone 7 users can already listen to podcasts on their handsets, but only if they download them to a computer and then transfer them to the phone. The "Mango" update will bring podcasts to the Windows Phone Marketplace.
Windows Phone 7's search function will include a new tab for "extras." Developers can program their apps to appear under this tab when users search for certain terms. For example, when looking up a movie with the search function, users can jump into IMDB and go straight to the page for that movie.
Microsoft plans to open the Windows Phone 7 camera to third-party developers, enabling bar code scanners and alternative camera apps.
Windows Phone 7's live tiles should get a little more useful once developers can include shortcuts. For example, the Qantas app will let users jump directly to their flight information from the home screen.
We've known for some time that Windows Phone 7 is getting Angry Birds. Now we know that it's still a couple months away, with a May 25 release date.
Long-awaited third-party multitasking and app switching will arrive on Windows Phone 7 this fall. The interface is similar to that of HP's WebOS, displaying open apps as a row of cards.
Microsoft showed off several uses of HTML5, part of Internet Explorer 9, on the phone. In one example, the phone played HTML5 audio, and continued to do so in the background after exiting the browser.