Phones running the new system, called Mango, will let users search for restaurants and businesses in their immediate area, perform voice-based Web searches, identify music playing in their surroundings, and switch back and forth between applications.
Those features are, by and large, innovations that well-known companies developed months or years ago. The Yelp app -- on Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and RIM's BlackBerry operating systems -- has led the way in helping users find nearby businesses. Android phones have had voice search for close to a year. The Shazam app has been the go-to service for song identification. And most smartphones already allow users to run multiple apps simultaneously.
Microsoft's strategy, it appears, is to create its own version of these popular features and build them directly into its smartphone's browser.
"Web browsing now also has an added layer that allows users to take advantage of functionality such as location awareness, the phone's camera and its microphone," the company said in a release.
Microsoft noted a number of other features intended to make messaging easier and faster, as well as improved graphics and speed for its Web browser. But Microsoft's announcement lacked some of the dramatic flair that regularly accompanies new products from rival Apple Inc.
One feature that appeared unique to the new phones was what Microsoft called App Connect -- a trick that would enable the phone to guess which apps users might want to bring up next. If someone did a Web search for movie showtimes, say, the phone would then offer to open the Fandango app so they could purchase tickets.
In February, Microsoft did a $1-billion deal with Nokia in which the Finnish company will adopt the Windows phone system for many of its upcoming handsets. In April, Microsoft phones accounted for only about 8% of the U.S. smartphone market, according to ComScore Inc. That was well behind leaders Google (33%), RIM (29%) and Apple (25%).
-- David Sarno
Image: A Windows phone running the Mango operating system, to be released in the fall. Credit: Microsoft Corp.