BARCELONA, Spain — Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said today that the company is about to introduce a number of new features for Windows Phone 7, including Twitter, multitasking and Internet Explorer 9.
The updates are coming in 2011, which Ballmer said is going to be as “fast paced” as 2010, when Microsoft launched its new smartphone operating system to compete with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platform.
“We’re off to a strong start we know we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Ballmer, delivering a keynote at the Mobile World Congress today. “The Windows Phone platform, like any other platform, will only thrive with scale and with variety.”
Twitter will be integrated into the contacts hub so you will see tweets from your contacts when you open your address book.
Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft’s latest Web browser, will be coming to Windows Phone in 2011 as well. The browser just hit the release candidate milestone for the PC last week. This is significant because it will make it possible to run sites built with HTML5 on the phone. That makes it possible to play video without plug-ins like Flash. Some of the video plug-ins that work on the Web on a PC do not work on smartphones.
Multitasking, which some talk up as a kind of technical holy grail for smartphones, is coming in 2011. Multitasking would allow you to listen to an online radio station, switch over to e-mail, and the music will continue playing.
The new features will be free to Windows Phone 7 users in an update this year.
The company also showed a video using Windows Phone 7 to interact with an Xbox Kinect game.
Microsoft ran into a more problems than usual during its on-stage demo. A high-definition video did not play during an Internet Explorer 9 demo, a Bing voice search also didn’t work and the projection for the phone shorted a few times.
Update 7:54 a.m.: Ballmer also got in a few digs at Android, although he didn’t mention Google by name. He talked about the undifferentiated “sea of phones” until Windows Phone 7 came out. He also talked about “fragmentation” carriers and phone makers are experiencing with Android phones.
Update 10:45 a.m.: I see a few of you are getting frothy at the mouth over the multitasking debate between Google, Apple and Microsoft’s mobile platforms.
So I’ll be more specific about what Microsoft showed in its demo on multitasking because there are many ways to define multitasking.
Microsoft showed two Xbox Live mobile games running at the same time. By pressing and holding the back arrow while playing an airplane-flying game, Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore paused the game and opened up a fruit-slicing game and started playing the second game. Then he switched back to the first game.