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February 28, 2012

Microsoft announces Tango update; Support for low end devices

Microsoft today announced its upcoming update for Windows mobile codenamed “Tango” with planned release in April 2012. Tango is expected to be a minor update which will, among other things, add support for low cost devices having 256MB ram and lower power CPU's. The update is expected to be preloaded on Nokia Lumia 610 (EUR189) and ZTE Orbit, but is expected to be rolled out on other Windows phones subsequently.

Windows Phone Developer blog also indicated that only 5% of the 65,000 current apps will not be compatible, other 98% will run fine on the lower spec phones. It also said that, If these apps are not updated to be able to run on the new devices, they will be flagged, so that users know of it beforehand.

A key feature expected to be missing from the lower end devices is background agents. So, for ex. updating of live tiles may not work. There is still not much clarity on what will and will not work, but according to wpcentral, things like fast app switching (required for multi tasking) will continue to work. This could be the area where some of the 5% incompatible apps could lie, apart from those requiring more memory.
Other updates in Tango
The new update could also feature Skype, whose beta version for Windows Phone was released. A test review by Ars Technica showed a few limitations, largely due to limited multi-tasking feature in Windows Mobile — hopefully this will be tackled in Tango or a subsequent update. It also remains to be seen, how Skype and VoIP would work for low end phones, even after future updates.
The new update is also expected to significantly improve SMS capabilities, with ability to add multiple photos, video and audio in a single message.
Microsoft also announced extension of Marketplace to 23 more markets, apart from the 5 where marketplace was enabled recently (Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines).
Bottom line
The new update will be beneficial to Nokia as it can now bring even its lower to mid spec phones under the Windows brand – especially if majority of the apps work well (if not flawlessly), as Microsoft is claiming. This will also extend the reach of the OS and hopefully induce more developers to develop for the platform.
Certain phone manufacturers like Huawei who were reluctant to release high end Windows phone, as reported by CNET, might be more willing to do so now. All in all, more phone and more manufacturers will improve the Windows phone ecosystem.
Microsoft will need to be careful in managing expectations on app compatibility and performance. If the 95% apps actually do run (including popular games, which might be difficult) then it would be good scoring point for the platform, else confidence in Microsoft could take a hit, both from the device manufacturers as well as the end consumers.

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