updated 12:10 pm EST, Mon February 14, 2011
Microsoft answers back with Windows Phone 7
Microsoft during its Mobile World Congress event showed a trio of major updates, among others, that will come to Windows Phone 7 later in the year and which it hopes will challenge Apple. The platform will finally get multitasking and is using a system heavily reminiscent of HP's webOS cards: jumping out shows all of the running apps as thumbnails of their current state and allows switching with simple flicks. Battery issues have reportedly been tackled, and third-part apps now have a wide range of privileges that includes background audio, among others.
The company used a browser upgrade as an opportunity to take a shot at iOS. WP7 will upgrade from the Internet Explorer 7 engine to the much faster and more accurate Internet Explorer 9 engine. Pages now load more accurately through graphics acceleration and, in some cases, outperform Safari on an iPhone. A demo showed an HTML5 animation playing smoothly on a WP7 device where an iPhone struggled.
A web-based HTML5 video, however, provided some embarrassment as the WP7 phone lost its Internet connection.
Microsoft also escalated its gaming presence by previewing the possibility of integrating Windows Phone 7 and Kinect in a game. Users could play one end of a tech demo, Rally Ball, by flicking balls with their finger while a Kinect player used the Xbox motion controller to hit them back. It's not evident if this will ever reach shipping Kinect games but did work.
Other updates are bringing automatic photo uploads on a wider level, tighter Xbox Live integration, SkyDrive cloud editing in the Office hub, and Twitter reaching the People hub. The copy-and-paste text update already promised is due in early March, but the other updates don't yet have timeframes and may be staggered.