Windows Live on Windows Phone “Mango”: The Past, Present, and Future

We’ve all heard about Microsoft’s "3-screens-and-the-cloud" strategy before, delivering cloud services to the "three-screens" – PCs, TV (via the Xbox 360), and of course your mobile phones. Windows Live really sits right in the centre of this strategy, bringing the "cloud" component to a variety of devices in the consumer space. Having said that, Windows Live had predominantly been focussing on the PC screen, and only recently Microsoft have expanded its Windows Live offerings to the mobile screen, supporting devices from feature phones and BlackBerrys, to smart phones like the iPhone, Android, and of course the Windows Phone. In this post we’ll take a good look at how Windows Live is tracking on Windows Phones at the moment, and a few opinions of our own which we think where Microsoft should take with Windows Live on the Windows Phone.

The Past

With the release of Windows Phone 7 back in November 2010, Microsoft really puts the cloud front and center, offering over-the-air synchronisation with a variety of services on the internet, particularly with Windows Live. Through the power of the Windows Live ID, the phone’s contacts, emails, calendars, and even photos and documents are synchronised directly with Windows Live on the cloud. For many people, this is probably one of the better features of Windows Phone 7 over its competitors.

The Present

However, there still exist some gaps between what’s available on the phone and what’s available on the PC. With the upcoming "Mango" update, Microsoft attempts to bridge some of these gaps, bringing greater support for Windows Live on the Windows Phone, including better integration with Messenger, SkyDrive, and more. The table below provides some analysis on how well Windows Live is integrated with Windows Phone, particularly with the upcoming "Mango" release. Check it out below:

Windows Live service Feature Availability on Windows Phone "Mango" Comments
Hotmail Featured Mobile Opinion
Hotmail / Mail
Compose and manage e-mails

Yes Featured Mobile Opinion

"Mango" brings new features such as flagged emails support, Linked Inbox, and conversation view to the Windows Phone.
Multiple email accounts

Yes1 Featured Mobile Opinion

Conversation View

Yes2 Featured Mobile Opinion

Calendar Featured Mobile Opinion
Calendar management

Yes3 Featured Mobile Opinion

"Mango" now brings multiple calendar support, subscribed calendars, as well as to-do lists to Windows Phone. In addition, Facebook calendar is also integrated in Windows Phone’s calendar.
Multiple calendars

Yes4 Featured Mobile Opinion

To-do lists

Yes5 Featured Mobile Opinion

Contacts Featured Mobile Opinion
Contacts management and search

Yes6 Featured Mobile Opinion

All of your contacts from Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are automatically synced to Windows Phone. Some contacts require manual "linking" for contact de-duplication.

However, the new contact groups support in "Mango" has no integration with Windows Live Contact’s categories. While you can "pin" contacts to the start screen, contacts you have favorited on Windows Live are also not categorised separately on Windows Phone.

Contacts from multiple sources (Facebook, LinkedIn)

Yes7 Featured Mobile Opinion

Automatic contact de-duplication

Limited Featured Mobile Opinion

Categorize and favorite contacts

No Featured Mobile Opinion

Profile Featured Mobile Opinion
Messenger Social updates

Yes8 Featured Mobile Opinion

All social feeds from Messenger Social connected services (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) are available on Windows Phone in the People hub. Users can also update their status and comment on their friend’s updates. 

"Mango" also natively support check-ins using Facebook Places.

Status updates

Yes9 Featured Mobile Opinion

Comment (and Likes) on status updates and photos

Yes10 Featured Mobile Opinion

Location Check-ins

Yes11 Featured Mobile Opinion

Set privacy permissions

No1 Featured Mobile Opinion

SkyDrive Featured Mobile Opinion
Photos sync

Yes12 Featured Mobile Opinion

All photos and Office documents are synced with Windows Live SkyDrive.

"Mango" now also supports documents sharing and collaboration for all Office document types. "Mango" also expands support for SkyDrive and allow users to access other file types on SkyDrive.

Office documents sync

Yes13 Featured Mobile Opinion

Documents collaboration and sharing

Yes14 Featured Mobile Opinion

Other file types

Limited1 Featured Mobile Opinion

Groups Featured Mobile Opinion
Windows Live Groups support

No2 Featured Mobile Opinion

The new contact groups support in "Mango" has no integration with Windows Live Groups.
Messenger Featured Mobile Opinion
Online Presence

Yes15 Featured Mobile Opinion

"Mango" finally has native support for Windows Live Messenger as well as Facebook chat in its Messaging hub.

However, as far as we know, voice and video chat is not yet supported on Windows Phone. While it appears you can send photos via the Messaging hub, transfer of other file types are not supported.

Instant messaging

Yes16 Featured Mobile Opinion

Voice and video chat

No3 Featured Mobile Opinion

Video messages

No3 Featured Mobile Opinion

Facebook Chat integration

Yes17 Featured Mobile Opinion

Photo transfers

Yes18 Featured Mobile Opinion

File transfers

No4 Featured Mobile Opinion

Photo-Gallery Featured Mobile Opinion
Photo Gallery
Photo sharing and upload

Yes19 Featured Mobile Opinion

Windows Phone pulls all of your photos and albums stored on Windows Live SkyDrive and Facebook to your phone, and allows you to quickly share them online too.

"Mango" will also pull all the photos stored on the cloud for all your friends too. It also brings auto-fix functionality and facial detection for users to quickly tag people’s faces on the phone.

Photos and videos management

Yes20 Featured Mobile Opinion

Photo editing

Limited2 Featured Mobile Opinion

Facial detection

Yes21 Featured Mobile Opinion

Facial recognition

No5 Featured Mobile Opinion

People tagging

Yes22 Featured Mobile Opinion

Movie-Maker Featured Mobile Opinion
Movie Maker
Video editing

No6 Featured Mobile Opinion

"Mango" allow users to directly upload their videos to Facebook.
Video sharing

Yes23 Featured Mobile Opinion

Writer Featured Mobile Opinion
Blog post composition and editing

No7 Featured Mobile Opinion

Besides the WordPress app, Windows Phone does not natively support Windows Live Writer’s functionalities.
Family-Safety Featured Mobile Opinion
Family Safety
Browsing protection

No8 Featured Mobile Opinion

Windows Phone does not feature browsing protection in IE9 Mobile. However, with "Mango", parental control is available for apps downloaded from the  Marketplace.
Activities monitoring

No9 Featured Mobile Opinion

Parental Control

Limited3 Featured Mobile Opinion

Mesh Featured Mobile Opinion
Files synchronisation

Limited4 Featured Mobile Opinion

Besides photo and Office document sync with SkyDrive, Windows Phone does not support Windows Live Mesh’s functionalities.
Favorites and settings sync

No10 Featured Mobile Opinion

Remote access

No11 Featured Mobile Opinion

The Future

As you can see in the table above, while Windows Phone "Mango" covers quite a bit of Windows Live services, there’s definitely still room for improvement. Below we’ll summarise what we think Microsoft should be moving forward to further bridge the gap between the phone and the PC:

  • Windows Live Mesh – There no doubt that this is one of the most wanted feature to be available on the Windows Phone. Back in the Live Mesh days, Microsoft did provide a version of Live Mesh for Windows Mobile, but ever since then we haven’t heard a single word about the mobile client of Mesh. Windows Phone today already supports automatic syncing of photos and Office documents, so the technology is definitely there to extend the functionality of Mesh. With Windows 8 rumored to feature built-in files, folders, and application settings sync, it would make sense to bring this also to the mobile counterpart.
  • Windows Live SkyDrive – While Windows Phone supports accessing documents on SkyDrive, it is currently only limited to photos and Office documents via the Photos and Office Hubs respectively. While "Mango" brings expanded support to access other file types on SkyDrive too (such as music and video files), wouldn’t it make more sense to be able to access these via the Music+Videos hub?
  • Windows Live Movie Maker – As you can see above, this is one area where Windows Live falls short on the Windows Phone. Apple already provides an iMovie app for the iOS, allowing users to quickly edit videos directly on their phones. Microsoft, why not bring Windows Live Movie Maker onto the Windows Phone too?
  • Windows Live Messenger – It’s great to see Windows Phone finally has native Messenger support. However, at the moment we’ve only seen IMs being supported, with no mentions of voice or video chat support. It is rumored that future Windows Phones will have a front-facing camera built-in, together with the acquisition of Skype, voice and video chatting should be here on Windows Phones in the not-too-distant future.
  • Windows Phone Live – While this wasn’t specifically mentioned in the table above, we believe the functionalities of Windows Phone Live (or My Phone) could be expanded further. For example, SMS and Call History backups are some of the features currently missing from this service. Microsoft have said that the current Windows Phone Live is just a small step for something much bigger. We wonder what else might be coming for Windows Phone Live down the road?

So after reading about what we think the future of Windows Live on Windows Phone should be, we’d like to hear what your thoughts are. Have we missed anything above? What would you like to see next on the Windows Phone in relation to Windows Live? Let us know in the comments below!