Steve Ballmer just walked off the stage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, after delivering a bit of news, most of it known to some degree already, about upcoming advances for Windows Phone.
After pinning down the early “NoDo”, or “cut and paste” update coming for Windows Phone to “within a month” (according to the press release), or “early March” (according to Joe Belfiore on stage at MWC), Ballmer and Belfiore spent most of the keynote talking about, and demonstrating the next free update coming for Windows Phone (known as “Mango”). Coming “later this year”, the new update will feature some significant advances, including”
- Internet Explorer 9 Mobile – featuring the same hardware acceleration capabilities as the full version of IE9. Belfiore said onstage that IE9 Mobile will run “the same core” as the desktop version.
- Multi-tasking – With the Mango update, you’ll be able to jump out of a task (playing a game, for example), navigate elsewhere in the phone, and come back an restart that task instantly. You’ll also be able to play 3rd party music services in the background, with full phone support (volume buttons, on screen controls), and press and hold the back button to scroll through multiple running apps.
- SkyDrive integration – with Mango, SkyDrive becomes a full fledged member of the Office Hub, working in much the same way that SharePoint integration works now.
- Xbox/Kinect support: at the end of his demo, Belfiore played a video showing Windows Phones controlling a Kinect Xbox game, saying again that this was “real code” – here’s that video:
Microsoft did not release any new sales numbers today, instead rolling out the same ol’ “93 percent customer satisfaction rate and nine out of 10 customers saying they are likely to recommend [the phone] to someone else” line. Microsoft did announce that Windows Phone will be coming to Verizon and Sprint in the US “soon”.
Nokia CEO also joined Ballmer onstage, talking again about the “3rd ecosystem”. Shares of Nokia stock continued to fall today, down another 4% this morning after having dropped almost 14% on Friday, while Microsoft stock is off a bit less than 1%.
So it’s more waiting for anything real we can get our hands on, but it looks like the March 8 date for the “NoDo” release is pretty firm, and Ballmer promised more announcements to come along with IE9 Mobile and multi-tasking. There’s no doubt that Windows Phone is off to a slow start, but with the addition of Nokia, and what should be a real push next holiday season with a Windows Phone / Kinect connection, we could begin to see some positive movement by year’s end.