Mobile Tech

Latest WinPho7 Patch Exiles Update Outlaws

Microsoft has warned owners of Windows Phone 7 devices who installed its delayed NoDo software update with a certain third-party tool that they won’t be able to download its latest security update, the 7392 build.

The NoDo update, officially titled the 7390 update, had been delayed repeatedly and is being rolled out in stages.

Some impatient WinPho7 owners who didn’t want to wait used the so-called Chevron tool from programmer Chris Walsh to install NoDo. These phones are described as having been “Walshed.”

Owners of such devices can’t update to the 7392 build or get further upgrades, the Windows Team Blog warned.

Is Microsoft being fair to WinPho7 users who had to wait for it to finally come out with the NoDo update? Or is Redmond taking a lesson from Apple’s handling of jailbroken smartphones?

Thou Shalt Not Walsh

Perhaps the mess should be laid at Microsoft’s door.

The first WinPho7 software update, which was issued in February to prepare the operating system for the NoDo update, bricked some smartphones, especially Samsung’s Omnia 7 and Focus devices.

That led Redmond to push back the release date for the NoDo update, which included a long-awaited copy-and-paste feature and CDMA capabilities. Microsoft finally began rolling out NoDo in late March.

However, the update only included the copy-and-paste functionality, and it began rolling out in stages.

On April 5, programmer Chris Walsh released the Chevron tool to let WinPho7 owners install the NoDo update on their own, but warned that people used it at their own risk.

The next day, Microsoft warned that using a homebrew workaround might prevent WinPho7 devices from receiving future updates.

Two days later, on April 8, Walsh announced that he was taking the tool offline at Microsoft’s request.

Too Legit to Quit

So, in clamping down on Walsh’s workaround, is Microsoft playing Big Brother? Is it trying to follow Apple’s model of exerting complete and utter control over its products?

“Microsoft has to maintain control over the product,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, pointed out.

“The lesson we’ve learned from Apple is, if you want to assure the quality of your product, you have to maintain control over it,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

“Microsoft can’t allow anyone to alter the software because then they can’t assure the quality of the customer experience and they’ll get blamed for it anyway,” he added.

Coding Is a Real Issue

Microsoft’s claims about undocumented APIs and other problems are probably well-founded, suggested Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on under the hood that you don’t see,” Morgan told TechNewsWorld. “There could be 200 pages of code behind a single function call these days.”

It’s possible that Walsh’s workaround “made a call to the back end through an API that wasn’t fully expressed on what it needs, what it does or how it works behind the scenes,” Morgan suggested.

The unofficial workaround performed an incomplete update, changing the smartphone, which is a state machine, rather than updating it, according to the Windows Team blog. Microsoft can’t undo those changes because of its schedule, although it won’t rule out a fix in the future, the blog stated.

“Microsoft will always be busy with its updates because of the way its software seems to have been written,” Morgan said. “It seems to be crushed under its own weight.”

Microsoft did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Side by Side by WinPho7

Walsh has possibly created a way to get WinPho7 devices that used his tool back on the officially supported path, the Windows Team blog claims.

Microsoft will work with him to validate his solution, the blog stated.

Walsh tweeted Wednesday that he obtained a code signing certificate for WinPho7.

Rolling the Customer Satisfaction Dice

Should Microsoft have devoted the additional time and effort required to ensure owners of Walshed WinPho7 devices can access future updates? Some owners of Walshed smartphones have expressed their anger on the Windows blog about being shut off from future updates.

“They’re doing the right thing,” ABI Research’s Morgan said. “There’s always going to be 1 or 2 percent of haters, and even Apple has said it’s not interested in making that 2 percent happy, it’s interested in making the other 98 percent of users happy.”

The owners of Walshed smartphones may not be too badly affected by any delays experienced in getting back on the official update path. That’s because the latest update, which is a security patch, may not be crucial to their welfare.

“Windows Phone 7 is very secure,” Ramon Llamas, a senior analyst at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. “That’s why it’s Number Two behind the BlackBerry in terms of enterprise deployment.”

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