Microsoft doesn't seem to be taking many chances with its Windows Phone "Mango" update-the newest Windows Phone SDK 7.1 "Beta 2 Refresh," now available from the Mango Connect Website, involves a tweaked updating process to compensate for two areas of potential trouble.
The refreshed SDK 7.1 offers some tweaks over the previous Beta 2, including a screenshot capability built into the emulator, and locked-down application platform APIs. It also corresponds with Build 7712, which, oddly enough, is not the Release to Manufacturing build issued July 26.
"For the folks wondering why we're not providing the -RTM' version, there are two reasons," Cliff Simpkins, a product manager for Windows Phone 7, wrote in a July 27 posting on The Windows Phone Developer Blog. First, "the phone OS and the tools are two equal parts of the developer toolkit that correspond to one another." Second, "this OS is close enough to RTM that, as a developer, it's more than capable to see you through the upcoming [Release Candidate] drop of the tools and app submission."
According to a previous Windows Blog posting, the Release Candidate tools, which developers can use to finalize their Mango-optimized apps for Microsoft's App Hub storefront, will drop in late August.
In any case, updating phones to Build 7712 has been adjusted to sidestep some previous Windows Phone issues. "We've updated the server logic in the first update (739x -> 7401) to better account for -Walshed' phones and phones that had the support tool run incorrectly on them," Simpkins added. "Second, the Zune client has been updated to link your updates into a single update run."
"Walshed" refers to a homebrew solution for downloading Windows Phone updates ahead of their official update, created at the beginning of April by developer Chris Walsh. Soon afterwards, Microsoft cautioned that devices updated via that method would be unable to update past a certain point. Walsh later warned people to avoid using the program.
In addition, the Zune client will now automatically check for subsequent updates every time it completes an update, sparing users from having to engage in the process more than once.
Windows Phone Mango offers some 500 new tweaks and features, according to Microsoft, including a redesigned Xbox Live Hub, home-screen tiles capable of displaying up-to-the-minute information, the ability to consolidate friends and colleagues into groups, and visual voicemail.
With the RTM, the software is now in the hands of Microsoft's manufacturing partners, who will load it onto devices slated for release starting this fall. Samsung, HTC, LG Electronics and Nokia have all committed to building new Windows Phone devices preloaded with Mango, while Acer, Nokia and ZTE have reportedly agreed to produce Windows Phone units for the first time.
"It is hard to tell what Mango will do [to] sales of Windows Phone," IDC analyst Al Hilwa wrote in a July 27 note to media. "In my opinion, now everything rests on the diversity of the device portfolio that begins to emerge. The platform has a solid story on the developer ecosystem where Windows Phone has crossed the 25,000 app critical-mass."