Microsoft made some assertive mobile moves in the past few days that make you think this company might actually be taking smartphones seriously.
First, on Feb. 11 Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft wherein Nokia will use Windows Phone 7 as its primary mobile OS on Nokia smartphones. This represents the merger of two companies that have lost their way in a mobile market now dominated by Apple, Google and RIM. Nokia’s Symbian OS had run its course and the company’s U.S. market share has all but dried up. Windows Phone 7, although by no means a blockbuster in the U.S., at least still has the potential for growth.
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Microsoft, on the other hand, needed a reliable hardware partner and more global reach, which Nokia still has. Can these two turkeys turn into an eagle? (to quote the tweet of a certain Google VP). Nokia won’t have Windows Phone devices ready until the end of 2011, so time will definitely tell. But at least both companies addressed a big problem instead of letting it dangerously linger.
For its part, Microsoft also unveiled today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a series of new WP7 features that will appear this year, with some features coming in the first official Windows Phone 7 update in the “first two weeks of March” and other features arriving throughout 2011.
I say “much needed” because WP7 has some weak spots that need fixing such as no copy-and-paste, sloppy search in the Windows Marketplace app store and no on-device encryption. But it’s also “much needed” because Microsoft has clearly been too leisurely with its mobile strategy. The quicker the OS updates the better if Microsoft is to have a chance against Android phones and the iPhone.
Here are the new WP7 enhancements announced by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his Mobile World Congress keynote.
- New capabilities such as copy and paste and faster application performance will be part of Microsoft’s first official Windows Phone 7 update (codenamed NoDo), coming in the first two weeks of March. The update will be free and available for all Windows Phones.
- Availability on CDMA networks will be part of the NoDo update. The first CDMA Windows Phone 7 smartphones from Verizon and Sprint are scheduled to be available in the first half of 2011.
- Twitter, everybody’s favorite microblogging and social networking site, will be integrated into the People Hub on WP7 homescreens in the second half of 2011.
- The sharing and storing of Office documents in the cloud via Windows Live SkyDrive will be added to Windows Phone 7 in the second half of 2011.
- Enhanced browsing with Internet Explorer 9, just released in released candidate mode, will be added to WP7 in the second half of 2011. The IE9 mobile browser will feature the same standards support (HTML5, etc.) and hardware accelerated graphics as the PC version.
- Multi-tasking capabilities such as the ability to switch quickly between applications and run applications in the background (such as listening to music) will be available in the second half of 2011.
Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org.