Microsoft's Windows Phone 'Mango' Rolling Out

Microsoft has begun rolling out its Windows Phone "Mango" update, which it hopes will make Windows Phone a more powerful smartphone competitor.

Microsoft's rollout of its long-awaited Windows Phone "Mango" update (also known as Windows Phone 7.5) has begun, but some smartphone owners may need to wait several weeks before it arrives on their device.

Microsoft hopes that Mango's hundreds of tweaks and new features will draw more attention from consumers, and give its hardware partners-including Nokia-a stronger software platform for their new Windows Phone devices. Microsoft faces a variety of fierce competitors in the mobility space, including Apple's iPhone and a growing army of Google Android devices.

Some of those new features, such as multitasking and a revamped Office hub, are major. Others are under-the-hood adjustments meant to improve performance or fix niggling bugs. Those desiring alpha-numeric passwords now have the ability to add one. For those Office 365 users who want to tweak their documents via their smartphone, and have those chances sync between devices, that capability is present as well.

Smartphones loaded with Mango have the option to operate as WiFi hotspots for nearby devices, provided that feature is enabled by a carrier. Microsoft's new Web Marketplace, according to a Sept. 27 posting on the Windows Phone blog, "will serve as your online resource to discover, try and buy new apps and games ... and get them automatically delivered to your phone without any complicated multi-step installs."

Microsoft has also updated its online calendar for tracking Windows Phone updates, where Windows Phone 7.5 is currently listed as in the "delivering update" stage for all carriers. "To help ensure quality, software updates are typically sent out gradually and/or in batches," reads a note on the Website, "so it might take several weeks before you receive notice that an update is available for your phone."

Microsoft will almost certainly apply extra effort to ensuring the update proceeds smoothly, considering how its previous infrastructure updates encountered a few snafus. In February, a small subset of users reported an update stalled their smartphones, which kicked off a vigorous round of corporate damage control. Given the size and importance of Mango to the overall Windows Phone strategy, Microsoft would doubtlessly like the latest update to proceed smooth and fast as a new highway.

Will Mango succeed? A new report from research firm NPD Group's Connected Intelligence Service suggests that some 44 percent of smartphone owners are considering the purchase of a Windows Phone 7 device.

That being said, the Service also suggested that Microsoft is facing significant issues in the brand-awareness department, with some 45 percent of consumers "still not aware of Windows Phone 7." Consumers cited a lack of awareness about Windows Phone, or OS ecosystem lock-in, as prime reasons for not planning to purchase a device running the platform.

Despite positive reviews for the Windows Phone platform, but research firms such as comScore have estimated Microsoft's smartphone market share as gradually declining over the past few months. "We haven't sold quite as many probably as I would have hoped we would have sold in the first year," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently told the audience during the company's Financial Analyst Meeting. "I think with a little bit more effort, a little bit more energy, the level of enthusiasm from the customer base is high enough we've just got to kick this thing to the next level."

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