Microsoft gives Windows Phone 7 a makeover

Microsoft has offered a glimpse into an update to its Windows smartphone that it hopes will allow it to gain some ground on market leaders Apple and Google.

The software update, code named Mango, will offer 500 new features, including Internet Explorer 9 as the browser.

The new version will feature in the phones Microsoft is making with Nokia and will be available later this year.

Currently Microsoft only holds a 4% share of the smartphone market.

"Seven months ago we started our mission to make smartphones smarter and easier for people to do more," said Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's mobile communications.

"With Mango, Windows Phone take a major step forward in redefining how people communicate and use apps and the internet," he added.

Mango will integrate SMS, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger into the same window.

Other features of the updated Windows phone will include a single inbox for all e-mail accounts and deeper social network integration with the addition of Twitter and LinkedIn to contact information.

Catch up

Image caption So far Windows phones have not proved a hit with consumers

It also promises to "challenge the way people think about apps", offering to integrate them more directly into the core functions of the phone.

So, for instance, apps will be more closely linked to the music, video and picture hubs on the phone, allowing them to surface "when and where they make sense".

Users will also be able to get real-time information from apps without having to open them.

The update will be available free to all Windows Phone 7 owners in the autumn.

Ovum analyst Tony Cripps said it would be a "worthwhile upgrade".

"However, Microsoft needs to do better if it is to persuade the market that it has the most user friendly - and desirable - mobile platform in the market today," he said.

"New features...look set to deliver a deeper level of integration between different communication apps (and other apps on the device) than users are so far accustomed to. But integration is a tough concept to sell to consumers even if they may benefit enormously once they've adopted it," he added.

Microsoft may find it an uphill struggle to catch its rivals

According to figures from analyst firm Gartner, Google's Android system accounts for 36% globally, followed by Apple with 17%.

But with Nokia's support, Gartner predicts that Microsoft could turn this around and increase its share to 19.5% by 2015.

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