Windows Phone 'Mango': Ripe or rotten?

Microsoft's silence on its smartphone OS's business features leaves questions on whether it's bridged Windows Phone 7's many gaps

As soon as September, we may see the first smartphones based on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" release, the OS update with what CEO Steve Ballmer says has more than 500 new features. The first version of Windows Phone 7 had a compelling UI but fell far short of the iPhone and even Android devices in many areas critical to business users. It was a flop in the market, but Microsoft asked everyone to give it a second chance. "Mango" is that second chance, and Microsoft sent the final "reboot" OS to smartphone makers a month ago.

Does "Mango" address the many gaps in the first version of Windows Phone 7? It's hard to say, as working versions of the OS are not yet available for people like me to test. And although Microsoft has been dribbling out information for months on "Mango," there's little meaningful detail yet -- especially on the core business capabilities that the first version lacked. When I asked Microsoft for what "Mango" added for business users, it was unable to tell me, pointing me instead to a vapid blog entry that said nothing about business. The improvements Microsoft has focused on publicly tend to fall into two camps: social applications and information sharing.

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Chances are we won't know for sure about its use in business settings until the first Windows Phone 7.5 smartphones are released. But here's what to look for in the new OS, based on what was missing in the original. In some cases, Microsoft has promised to fill these gaps, so I note those potential fixes as well.

Security capabilities
It was a major shocker to me that Windows Phone 7 had no support for corporate-class security, which was available in its predecessor, Windows Mobile. In fact, Windows Mobile became widely used in government agencies because of these capabilities. As a consequence, few businesses could let users adopt Windows Phone 7 devices.

What's missing:

  • On-device encryption
  • Complex passwords and enforcement
  • Virtual private networks
  • Support for static IP addresses

Web and Internet capabilities

What's missing:

  • HTML5 support. The adoption of Internet Explorer 9 in "Mango" brings HTML5 support, though IE9 supports significantly fewer HTML5 features than any other mobile browser. Still, it's progress.
  • Adobe Flash support. Yes, iOS and BlackBerry OS don't support this either, and Flash support on Android and the now-defunct WebOS is limited, so this is not a big issue for me, but it is for some users.
  • Bookmark folders in the browser.
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