A few weeks ago, having connected my Samsung Focus to my desktop for syncing, I was greeted with a pleasant message from Zune notifying me that a Windows Phone 7 update was available. The NoDo update included fine-tuned performance and app start-up time tweaks, as well as the much awaited copy and paste feature, among other things. Features aside, the performance optimizations alone gave the OS a fresh and brand new feel. So needless to say, I am really excited about Mango – the next WP7 update. Mango’s list of features is so immense, that the update might as well be described as an intermediate OS release between the current version of WP7 and Windows 8.

For starters, Mango will include the mobile version of IE9, along with some of its most important features. In-browser Silverlight, HTML5 and hardware acceleration support are all slated to be included in the mobile cousin of the desktop browser. With HTML5, a music site with an audio playlist, for instance, will let you play music directly from the browser. While GPU accelerated Silverlight will give you direct access to interactive multimedia, once again, directly from your browser. And yes, that includes games. These features are impressive on their own, but I am even more eager to make use of them simultaneously, as Mango will include true multitasking. In the MIX2011 showcase, this was presented by playing music on a website using HTML5 and returning to the home screen with the music continuing to play. If you enjoy habitual game-playing but quickly grow tired of in-game music and would rather stream an online audio stream, then Mango has a treat for you!

Mango opens the doors wide-open to developers with an ocean of new APIs. Included in the list is support for TCP/IP sockets, finally paving the way to direct communication, instant messaging, multiplayer gaming, and more. Raw access to camera stream along with a motion sensor library and gyroscope support will allow for development of augmented reality apps and games. One particular API that is near and dear to my heart, XNA, will benefit from Silverlight/XNA integration, allowing for Silverlight’s UI components to be used natively in 3D accelerated games.

Along with these features, the already gorgeous Metro UI also gets a facelift. One particular feature that I think will become both handy and aesthetically pleasing to everyone is the alphabetical categorization of apps. The new layout is identical to the way your contact list behaves, allowing you to navigate to an app by name by selecting the first letter. Additionally, live tiles will be updateable with push notifications. In fact, apps will be able to take advantage of double-sided tiles and even multiple tiles.

With all that said, allow me to leave you with something to think about. Although the enormity of Mango makes it look like a major OS release, it is still bound to be just an update for WP7. However, now that we know that Windows 8 will be heading to SoC and will natively support ARM, it sure does make you think about what the next evolution of the PC and subsequently Windows 8-based tablets will be like. No speculation though, just food for thought :)