Giving a closer look at some of the new Windows Phone 7 features that are coming this spring, VP for Windows Phone Program Management Joe Belfiore demonstrated the operating system's upcoming ability to multitask, integrate with SkyDrive, and display web pages using IE 9. Though full details were scarce, we got a good taste of what we can expect when Microsoft rolls out its update in the March or April time frame.
Today, only Microsoft's own apps can run in the background in Windows Phone 7. With the update, Microsoft will allow certain forms of multitasking by third party apps. Belfiore showed one scenario where a game restarted almost immediately after a user left it, went to make a call, and came back. He said that this near-instant resume is much faster than the 3 to 10 seconds most games take to resume play today. He also said app developers will be able to create music apps that play in the background.
Unfortunately, Microsoft isn't ready to disclose full details of how the multitasking will work, though Belfiore said they would have more to say at a developer conference in April. We still don't know what other types of apps, besides music apps, will be able to run in the background. And we have no way of knowing whether apps that can control other apps (screen shots, automation scripts, etc) will be allowed.
IE 9 Support
The mobile browser in the next version of Windows Phone 7 will be Internet Explorer 9. According to Belfiore, this version of IE is made from the same codebase as IE 9 for Windows and will therefore render pages the same way, including providing hardware acceleration and HTML 5 support. He showed a WP7 phone playing an HTML 5 animation of fish from the IE 9 web site and then compared it to an iPhone viewing the same page. On the iPhone, the fish barely moved as they zoomed along on the WP7 handset. He also showcased HTML 5 video and other features on a special version of IMDB.
Right now, Windows Phone 7's Offce Hub only allows you to browse SharePoint servers,which are only available to enterprise users. However, Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive is a free cloud storage and document service that over 70 million people use. With the update, you'll be able to access SkyDrive from the Office Hub.