As it attempts to make up a lot of lost ground in the smartphone race,  Microsoft introduced a plethora of new features for its next Windows Phone 7 operating system at an event in New York City.

Microsoft introduced its next operating system, codenamed Mango, saying it improves communications, apps and access to the Internet. The company said it built the updates around these three things, since they are what people want to do most.

Seven months ago we started our mission to make smartphones smarter and easier for people to do more, Andy Lees, president of the Mobile Communications Business at Microsoft, said at the event. With 'Mango,' Windows Phone takes a major step forward in redefining how people communicate and use apps and the Internet, giving you better results with less effort.

For communication, Windows Mango will include a threads feature, which will allow users to switch between text, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation. There will also be a groups feature, deeper integration and linking multiple emails into one inbox. Windows Mango will also support voice-to-text and text-to-voice support.

The next version of Windows Phone 7 will also have better app and search integration. For instance, with App Connect, apps will only come up and appear when they are relevant to a user's search. Live Tiles, one of the main features in Windows Phone 7, will be improved, using real-time information to update apps automatically.

Microsoft also improved the internet connectivity of the operating system. It includes IE9, the latest version of Internet Explorer, which supports HTML5 and full hardware acceleration. It also has a localization feature, automatically updating search results for a user's location.

The Bing Vision feature allows users to take a photo of something, and information will automatically pop up. During the Bing Vision demonstration, Lees took a photo of a book and it immediately popped up on the Kindle app for Windows Phone 7. There is also a feature called Quick Cards, which gives a quick summary of a search term.

Along with these updates, there is also a redesigned Xbox gaming hub integrated into the phone as well as a cloud storage service.

Microsoft did not give a date for when the new features would be rolled out. It did say the first phones manufactured under the Nokia-Microsoft partnership will be Mango phones. Also the company said Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE will have Windows Phone 7 phones as well along with the original partners, HTC, LG and Samsung.

The introduction of new features comes at a critical time for Windows. Last week, Gartner research indicated the phone platform has gotten off to a slow start since its introduction in October of 2010. Only 1.6 million phones have been sold, the firm said.

Some analysts say an interesting platform might not make a difference if Microsoft is to compete. Russian tech blogger and analyst Eldar Murtazin, who was the first to predict the Nokia and Microsoft deal, said Microsoft's sales numbers for Windows Phone have been even worse than reported.  Failure? Definitely yes. Unfortunately, in spite of the ecosystem, developer support, Microsoft could not create a product that would be attractive to the consumer, Murtazin said.

Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna