If you've been holding yourself back during these early rounds of the smartphone wars in anticipation of Windows Phone 7, your wait just got a tiny bit shorter. Today Microsoft is announcing that its fancy new mobile operating system has been released to manufacturing, making the idea of you holding an actual WP7 device in your hands that much closer to reality. The finished product is now rolling out to partners around the world where it will be getting carrier and manufacturer tweaks and additions, and going through the kind of pre-launch testing you would expect for a release of this scale. If you had any doubt that the Windows Phone 7 onslaught was close at hand, feel free to abandon them now.

Furthermore, the folks on the 7 team have managed to cram a few last minute goodies into the OS, one of which we're particularly excited about. As you probably know from our in-depth preview of an early version of the software, we had a lot of issues with overflowing Facebook contacts in our phone. Microsoft has now solved that problem by enabling a contact filter system which looks for pre-existing matches to your Facebook contacts. If it doesn't find a match, it doesn't pull that contact into your address book (kind of like how Android filters Facebook friends). It's a welcome addition and should make the Facebook / Windows Phone 7 combo a lot more palatable to a lot of people. Furthermore, Microsoft has added functionality into the People Hub which will allow you to "like" someone's posts, and you'll be able to comment directly onto someone's Wall right in the hub. The company has also made tweaks and fixes focusing on feature discoverability (another issue we pointed out in the early look), along with the expected set of polishing and finish you'd expect from a product that's gone gold master.

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Windows Phone 7 goes gold master, begins rolling out to partners for final launch preparations