Ina Fried

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Microsoft Offers Mea Culpa for Slow Windows Phone Updates, Promises Mango Update This Fall

Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore kicked off his keynote speech on Wednesday by offering yet another apology for the slowness with which the company has rolled out the first couple of updates for Windows Phone 7.

The company had originally hoped to have an update adding copy and paste out to users by January, but ran into several hitches. At this point, Microsoft has approved that update but not all customers have it as carriers continue to do their testing.

Belfiore said that the company has added both staff and infrastructure to the unit that handles testing of updates. It has also added a “Where’s my update?” page.

“We expect we are going to get these problems licked,” he said.

With that, Belfiore turned his focus to Mango, the larger-scale update due out later this year that will offer improved multitasking, better browsing with Internet Explorer 9 and integrated Twitter support, among other features. Belfiore also announced on Wednesday that Mango will add support for 16 additional languages and increase the number of countries from which apps can be submitted as well as the number of countries in which users can buy apps from the marketplace.

On the feature side, Belfiore said that developers will have access to new controls, including deeper access to the camera, SQL database and more. The new capabilities, he said, are what will allow Skype to come to Windows Phone with the new update. Developers will also be able to have live tiles that jump to a feature within an app. As an example, Belfiore showed how Amazon might be able to have an option that lets those running its app go straight to a bar code reader.

The new background audio feature of multitasking will allow third-party programs to play sound while another app is running, something that wasn’t possible in the first version of Windows Phone 7 but is a staple of other platforms. Spotify will be among those taking advantage of the new feature, Belfiore said. (Of course, Spotify still isn’t available in the U.S., but maybe it will be by fall.)

Belfiore also announced that a promised spring release of Angry Birds for Windows Phone will come May 25.

The company is also working to offer a new motion control that integrates data from a compass and gyroscope. Belfiore showed that in action doing a demo of Layar, the augmented reality app that recently got an update for iPhone and Android.

Microsoft has said it expects to be able to have Mango on new phones and as an update for existing users this year. Belfiore made a reference on Wednesday to it showing up on new phones by fall.

As for developers, they can get their hands on the tools needed to take advantage of the added features next month, Belfiore said.

Also, Mobilized noticed that the hardware that Belfiore was using to demonstrate the new features was an unreleased phone model from Asus.

As for the new browsing, it uses a version of Internet Explorer 9. Belfiore did a demo showing a “speed reading” test with the new Windows Phone rendering far faster than the iPhone 4 and an Android device.

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