Microsoft has announced that the first major update to Windows Phone 7 will finally add multitasking to the mobile operating system.
The long-awaited update, codenamed Mango, will allow users to flick between applications with a click of a button, a feature other smartphone platforms have enjoyed for some time.
The update will arrive on existing phones in the third calendar quarter, and Microsoft said it would include a total of 500 improvements to the Windows mobile OS. Nokia has also announced that Mango will be the version of the OS used on its debut Windows Phone 7 handset. The Finnish manufacturer is yet to make a specific hardware announcement.
Microsoft spokesman Nick Hedderman said the new multitasking feature had been designed specifically "not to drain the battery", demonstrating the new feature by flicking back and forth between apps and games, resuming where he previously left off.
In addition to multitasking, Windows Phone 7 will introduce Groups, an extension of the People hub enabling contacts to be placed into groups, and all activity associated with those contacts displayed in one unified hub.
Threaded messaging also receives an update, displaying not only texts but now social-networking updates.
Twitter and LinkedIn will be integrated into the mobile OS, joining the existing Gmail, Windows Live and Facebook integrations. The company also demonstrated voice control - with a text arriving, being read out by the phone's text-to-speech engine, then answered via speech recognition - all without the user having to touch the screen.
Turn-by-turn satnav will be added to Bing Maps, and the Bing search facilities have received a huge boost, now featuring product image and barcode searches directly from the search app, as well as Shazam-style music recognition. See below for a video demonstration of some of the update's more interesting features: