Operating Systems

Windows Phone Growing Pains Cause Update Headache

Will Microsoft let owners of smartphones running Windows Phone 7.5, nicknamed “Mango,” upgrade to WinPho 8, also known as “Apollo?”

At this point, the answer appears very unclear.

Controversy erupted when Nuno Silva, described as a Microsoft evangelist, said that all current smartphones running Windows Phone 7 will get the upgrade to WinPho 8. A video of the interview was run on Portuguese mobile forum Zwame.

That same day, The Verge ran a story citing an unnamed source close to Microsoft who stated there will be no upgrade path from Mango to Apollo.

Redmond didn’t help clear up the confusion.

“We have stated publicly that all apps in our marketplace today will run on the next version of Windows Phone,” spokesperson Annie Truong told TechNewsWorld. “Beyond that we have nothing to share about future releases.”

Shining a Light on WinPho

Microsoft’s statement is open to parsing. If apps in the Windows marketplace today will run on Apollo, that doesn’t mean owners of devices running Mango will be able to upgrade to the next version of Windows Phone.

However, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, thinks WinPho 7 device owners will get the upgrade.

“All phones that are currently running Windows Phone 7.5 and, maybe 7, will get Windows Phone 8,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “Engineers are not known for being that clear, which is why folks like me can make a living.”

Apps make the mobile device, and “the question for Windows Phone developers is, when Windows Phone 8 comes to the phone, how easy will it be for them to bring their apps over,” Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Weaving a Tangled Web

For all its success in gaining market share, the Android platform still receives criticism for its uneven update path. This is sometimes due to the many manufacturers who make Android devices and their own individual agendas in regard to clearing the way for software updates.

Microsoft’s mobile platform is kept under tighter control, but might it also end up on a rough update road?

“Clearly Microsoft hopes to be in a position that is more like Apple than Android on this,” IDC’s Hilwa said. “I think it’s too early to conclude how they are going to do this.”

Another source of confusion is that WinPho 7 supports only single-core processors and WVGA screens, but WinPho 8 is rumored to support dual-core processors and higher-resolution screens. If the reports are true, that might rule out upgrading devices running WinPho 7 and its variants to WinPho 8.

Since Microsoft provides a proprietary OS, it should have more control over who gets to use its software than a company like Google, which provides an open OS, so why isn’t Redmond using that control to prevent this kind of confusion?

“I think they are, but they clearly have not built their hardware ecosystem to where Google is,” Hilwa opined.

Shiny New OSes Can Hurt Too

Part of the problem is that Windows Phone is “a brand new platform,” Will Stofega, a program director at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. Microsoft “needs to finish what it started in terms of [WinPho] 7.5, and I think they’ll get there sooner rather than later. I think a lot of people are making too much out of it.”

Further, Microsoft is trying to do too many things at once, and that adds to the confusion. “A major Windows Phone launch occurring during a major Windows [OS] launch could be confusing to customers,” Enderle said. “Google avoids this because they don’t really market Android, the OEMs market the devices. Apple avoids this because they are device-, not platform-, focused.”

Microsoft “have a lot of fingers in the pie,” IDC’s Stofega remarked. “They have a major launch in North America, they have other launches in management products and new platforms and ecosystems.”

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