Microsoft yesterday evening previewed the next major release of Windows Phone, codename Mango, which will deliver more than 500 new features to push the boundaries of the smartphone experience around communications, apps and the Internet.

The Mango release will be available for free to Windows Phone 7 customers and is scheduled to ship on new phones later this year; More details on device update timing will be provided closer to availability.  Windows Phone will also add support for additional languages; expand access to apps by launching Marketplace in South Africa, and partner with new OEMs to enable this expansion.
“Seven months ago we started our mission to make smartphones smarter and easier for people to do more,” says Nazeer Suliman, consumer and online lead at Microsoft. “With Mango, Windows Phone takes a major step forward in redefining how people communicate and use apps and the Internet, giving you better results with less effort.”
The smartphone experience can be complicated by a sea of disconnected apps and accounts as people attempt to keep pace with all the ways they communicate – from calls, texts, email and IM to status updates, Tweets, check-ins, photo posting and tagging.  To help people stay on top of that growing complexity, the Mango release organises information around the person or group people want to interact with, not the app they have to use.
* Threads let users switch between text, Facebook chat, and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation.
* Groups lets them group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see the latest status updates right from the start screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to the whole group.
* Deeper social network integration means that Twitter and Linked In feeds are now integrated into contact cards, and Mango includes built-in Facebook check-ins and new face detection software that makes it easier to quickly tag photos and post to the Web.
* Linked Inbox lets users see multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Conversations are organized to make it easy to stay on top of the latest mail.
In addition to making it easier to get timely notifications and updates from apps right from the Start Screen, the Mango release will also surface apps as part of search results and within Windows Phone Hubs.  As a result, a useful app is more likely to be right there when you need it.
* App Connect. By connecting apps to search results and deepening their integration with Windows Phone Hubs, including Music and Video and Pictures, Mango allows apps to be surfaced when and where they make sense.
* Improved Live Tiles. Get real-time information from apps without having to open them.  Live Tiles are more dynamic and can hold more information.
* Multitasking. Quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background while helping to preserve battery life and performance.
In addition to including Internet Explorer 9, the Mango release will connect the power of the Web to the unique capabilities of your phone, such as location awareness, camera and access to apps, to present a new way of viewing the Web that is more localized, actionable and relevant.
The Windows Phone ecosystem has grown steadily since Windows Phone 7 first launched in October, with more than 17 000 apps currently available on Marketplace and Windows Phone handsets available from a range of partners worldwide, and Microsoft’s recently announced partnership with Nokia.
Mango will expand the Windows Phone ecosystem through new partnerships with Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE, which today announced plans to deliver new Windows Phone devices in markets around the world.