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Microsoft Windows Phone 'Mango' Update: Location, Apps, More

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Microsoft on Tuesday officially unveiled a major update to its Windows Phone platform, dubbed Mango.

Mango will be free to existing Windows Phone 7 customers and will ship on new phones starting this fall.

Microsoft held a media event in New York Tuesday to show off some of Mango's new features.

"Seven months ago we started our mission to make smartphones smarter and easier for people to do more," Andy Lees, president of the Mobile Communications Business at Microsoft, said in a statement. "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."

Microsoft promised hundreds of enhancements, including threads, groups, deeper social network integration, linked inbox, and hands-free messaging, which is part of an effort to organize information "around the person or group people want to interact with, not the app they have to use," Microsoft said.

The company also promised a smarter approach to apps. Mango will include apps within search results and Windows Phone hubs. Live tiles will also provide real-time information without having to open them, while enhanced multi-tasking will allow users to switch between apps and run them in the background.

The Mango browser will be based on Microsoft's latest release, Internet Explorer 9. For more relevant search results, a feature known as "Local Scout" will provide results based on location with recommendations on nearby restaurants, shopping, and more. Not surprisingly, Bing will also feature prominently, pulling in Bing Vision for visual searches, Music Search, and Voice.

The Windows Phone Marketplace now has 17,000 apps, Microsoft said. For developers, a beta release of the free Windows Phone Developer tools for Mango will be posted for public download on Microsoft's Web site in the next 24 hours.

Though today's announcement was primarily focused on software, Microsoft did say that Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE will offer Windows Phone devices in markets around the world at some point.

For more, check out the slideshow above. PCMag mobile analyst Sascha Segan will also have more details later today, so stay tuned.

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