According to PCWorld, Microsoft is planning on adding a slew of new features and improvements to its Windows Phone 7 mobile OS. Speaking at a keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer outlined how Windows Phone 7 would be improved before the end of the year.
The first update, which will be available in early March, is slated to introduce copy and paste functionalities as well as enhancing general performance.
Some of the more interesting capabilities that are in the pipeline though includes access to SkyDrive, an online storage service that allows users to save Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents online, making it possible for users to easily share their office docs from their smartphones.
The mobile OS will also receive a phone friendly version of Internet Explorer 9, which Microsoft corporate VP Joe Belfiore said would increase hardware acceleration in a way that optimally utilises the graphical hardware of today's phones. Let's hope this means it won't hog up quite as much of your phone's memory.
In an interesting note, it was also announced that the browser, based on HTML5, would natively run video. While Windows Phones do not utilise Adobe's Flash player, it was interesting to note that Silverlight support wasn't mentioned. Supporting native video means that websites will be able to offer video content without users having to download any additional software.
The massive update is also slated to introduce multitasking, a sorely missed feature on Windows Phone 7 thus far. Belfiore briefly demonstrated the feature by streaming music from the Slacker radio app whilst navigating through to other apps in the menu.
Multitasking support will also introduce a new user interface which will show users what apps are running in the background, enabling them to easily switch between them. Whilst holding the 'back' key the OS will display a minimized view of each app which users can scroll through.
“When apps run in the background, if you're not careful about how it's architected, they can drain the battery. We will ship a multitasking approach that we think does the right balance of protecting the battery while allowing multitasking,” Belfiore said.
Gamers will also be glad to learn that they haven't been left out of Microsoft's strategy, as Belfiore previewed a technology that can turn Windows Phones into controllers for certain Xbox 360 games. A brief demo was shown where one person was blocking colourful balls thrown at him via Microsoft's Kinect peripheral. Another player was then shown tapping away on a smarphone display, causing the balls to fly at the Kinect player.
It wasn't stated when the technology would be available, or how exactly it would work with other titles, but we're remaining bravely optimistic about the notion of an interconnected gaming experience on Microsoft's platforms.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop also briefly appeared on stage, reiterating the recent agreement
signed between Nokia and Microsoft, with future Nokia smartphones running on Windows Phone 7.
It is not known when exactly all of the new features would be coming to the OS, but all of the above mentioned (barring perhaps the game support), will be releasing before the end of the year.