To hear Microsoft executive Andy Lees describe Mango's 500 improvements to the Windows Phone platform would be daunting.
Microsoft demonstrated Tuesday at least 20 of the 500 ways Mango is better than Windows Phone 7. But even 20 improvements is too many for most people to easily comprehend. (However, Lees promised even more Mango demonstrations in coming months before Mango is ready to be shipped in the fall.)
Here are three reasons why Mango might help Microsoft sell more Windows Phones, pulling it up from its current fifth place in the smartphone OS rankings. If these reasons don't persuade loyal Android or iPhone users, they might attract first-time smartphone buyers.
1. Internet Explorer 9 integration
If you're a speed nut (and who isn't?), you might appreciate that Mango is running a full desktop version of the IE9 browser, not a mobile variation.
Microsoft demonstrated this IE9 capability in Mango in April for Windows Phone developers, who cheered when a browsing speed test favored Windows Phone over phones running Android, BlackBerry and iOS. Again on Tuesday, a speed test favored Windows Phone on Mango and IE9.
Derek Snyder, a Microsoft product marketing manager, ran the same HTML5 browsing speed test simultaneously on a BlackBerry Torch, an iPhone 4 with the latest firmware, a Samsung Droid Charge running Android with a dual-core processor, and a Windows Phone running Mango.
In the test results, the BlackBerry got 4 frames per second of HTML5 loading, while the Android device got 10 frames per second and the Mango-powered phone got 25 frames per second. The iPhone was started by hand just after the BlackBerry but had not begun loading by the time Snyder started the remaining two devices. The Mango device finished the HTML5 loading ahead of the others.
"It proves to be a fantastic browsing experience," Snyder said.
2. Quick cards and Bing integration
Microsoft describes quick cards as a way for a user making a Bing search to get a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps. Snyder described quick cards as a "blurring" of Internet searching and apps.
In one demonstration of quick cards, Snyder showed a search for the movie Water for Elephants, which resulted in show times, ratings and a quick synopsis rather than taking him to a separate website. He then clicked on the IMDB application, which quickly opened to a specific section of the online film database for the movie.
Bing search is also being enhanced with visual searches. In another demo, Snyder took a photo of a book, which launched a quick card that gave reviews and places where the book could be purchased online, including Amazon's Kindle app. Then Snyder tapped the Kindle app and downloaded the book to his phone for future reading.
3. Office, Xbox and Skype
Mango includes an updated version of the Office suite that will ship with new versions of Excel, One Note and PowerPoint. Among the improvements, users will be able to highlight cells in Excel to change data.
The upgrade will also include the Internet voice and video service Skype to allow users to make Skype calls from Windows Phones. Microsoft said earlier this month it would buy Skype for $8.5 billion.
Mango will also have an Xbox Live gaming capability, the only smartphone OS to do so. Users will be able to see a friend list, and every game on the device can be accessed through the Xbox Live tile on the home screen in Mango, Microsoft said.
The inclusion of Office, Skype and Xbox Live is important because all three products are already market leaders separate from Mango, noted Ross Rubin, an analyst at NPD.
"Office and Xbox Live have the most momentum in the market in terms of an engaged user base of all the products and services on Windows Phones," Rubin said. "Skype represents another opportunity to build atop of a community that is strongly engaged in that product. Adding to those products and services is where Microsoft can get better dividends with Mango."
Rubin said the Office enhancements with Mango will be an especially important way for Windows Phones to stand out in the market. "While there are other products competing with Office, such as Documents to Go, Office is clearly a very strong offering for Microsoft. It means that consumers are assured of fidelity within documents."
Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said that while Mango might not be the OS version that makes current iPhone and Android users want to switch and try Windows Phone, it could attract millions of first-time smartphone buyers in coming years.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter @matthamblen. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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