Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday that it plans a major upgrade to its Windows Phone software this fall, ahead of the launch of the first Nokia phones to use it.
The revamped software contains a new, faster Web browser and allows users to switch quickly between applications, using a "card" display similar to the one in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s webOS software, which it bought along with Palm Inc.
Microsoft said the software, codenamed "Mango," will be available as a downloadable update for all Windows Phones sold until then.
Finland's Nokia Corp., the world's biggest maker of phones, announced in February that it would adopt Windows Phone and toss out its current smartphone software. Microsoft is paying it billions of dollars to do so, as it's trying to buy into a market now dominated by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.'s Android software.
Microsoft launched Windows Phone in November, but it ran only 1.6 percent of the smartphones sold worldwide in the first quarter, according to research firm Gartner Inc.
"Mango" contains more than 500 changes, Microsoft said, including integration of Facebook Chat into conversations that can also include text messages from the same person. Overall, the update is aimed at reducing the reliance on separate third-party apps and baking in as much as possible of their functionality in the operating system.
Ovum analyst Tony Cripps said the new update looks worthwhile, but may not be enough, considering the opposition.
"Microsoft needs to do better if it is to persuade the market that it has the most user friendly _ and desirable _ mobile platform in the market today," Cripps said.
Microsoft said three more manufacturers would make Windows phones: Acer of Taiwan, Fujitsu of Japan and ZTE of China. ZTE is little-known outside China, but is the world's sixth-largest phone maker, according to research firm Gartner Inc.
Peter Svensson can be reached at http://twitter.com/petersvensson