BARCELONA, 14 FEBRUARY 20110- A major Windows Phone 7 (WP7) update coming later this year will add Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), more third-party multitasking, Twitter and Skydrive cloud computing functions, Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer announced here at Mobile World Congress 2011.
Ballmer characterized the improvements as a way to please consumers, wireless carriers, WP7 developers and even existing hardware makers such as Samsung and HTC in light of Microsoft's new partnership to put the Windows Phone OS on Nokia devices.
"Windows Phone will be the most operator-friendly platform available," Ballmer promised. "Today, people are falling in love with Windows phones and we will continue popularizing the product."
The new capabilities will be in a major Windows Phone release in the second half of 2011, although no date was given. A less significant update is due out in the first two weeks of March, and will add copy/paste functionality and application improvements.
Several demonstrations during Ballmer's keynote of the code for the major upgrade included a video showing an Xbox Live Kinect user in a living room using gestures to bat away balls being "thrown" from WP7 phones by two other Xbox Live users in the same game. A skeleton of the living room user before a TV monitor showed on the phones.
The coming Skydrive connectivity would allow a WP7 user to store files and folders in a cloud where permitted users could access them for review and edits. The IE9 capabilities showed how IE9 on a desktop can more quickly process video, something that Ballmer said would also come to Wp7 later this year.
Another demonstration of the update showed how Twitter will be available to WP7, as will the ability to multitask to third-party apps. That type of multitasking has so far been too taxing on batteries.
Ballmer was joined onstage by Stephen Elop, the CEO of Nokia, who focused on cellular operators as well, noting that the Nokia-Microsoft partnership unveiled last week will "allow operators to deliver more choice to the ultimate consumers." He noted that "Microsoft has a modern collection of tools and Nokia contributes billing and other forms of automation" that will enhance Nokia's "iconic hardware," Elop added.
Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, blogged on Monday that the Windows Phone devices will move to CDMA networks such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel (S) in the "first half" of 2011.
He said the SkyDrive Office document storage capability and IE9 support for WP7 will appear in second half 2011. IE9 on the phones will offer HTML5 support and accelerated graphics, the same as on the PC version, he said.
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