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Is Windows Phone 8 really just an insult to WP7 users?

June 23, 2012

So Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8, a new O/S version that will NOT be installable on existing (Windows Phone 7.5 a.k.a. Mango) hardware. So those shiny new Nokia Lumia 900s suddenly look like they’re at end of life. And the blogosphere went crazy.

When Apple releases an iOS version (as they do every year), they say right up front that certain features won’t work on older hardware, even if that hardware is only a year old. And it’s accepted. My iPhone 4 won’t run Siri? Okay, I’ll buy a 4S. But I get to tell people that my older phone is still running iOS 5.

So Microsoft could have said something similar: “Here’s a new O/S for the latest hardware. And our older phones, well, they’ll run a subset of the new features but we’ll all be running the same Windows Phone 8”. But the engineers don’t like that because under the covers it isn’t really the same. So they tell Marketing, “Only the new phones will run the new software. But here’s a package of new features for the older phones; just don’t call it the same thing.” And thus Windows Phone 7.8 is born.

But there is another problem: The Lumia 900, the phone that shouldn’t have shipped. This should have been a high-performance, multicore phone that was dumbed down for the WP7.5 software, and then would come into its own with WP8. Instead, it was designed with 2-year-old hardware, received decent reviews, and then ended up a dead end, causing many to say that the Microsoft / Nokia relationship is a failure. If the launch had been handled properly, we would have been singing the praises of Windows Phone and the farsighted strategy of merging the codebase.

So the Lumia is still a decent phone — nothing changed — but few people who actually understand what’s going on are going to buy or recommend a purchase of a non-upgradeable phone. And just as with Windows Mobile 6.5, we’re in a holding pattern waiting for the next reboot of the platform.

Looking forward (because it’s far less depressing), Microsoft needs to make some changes if it’s going to compete in the rapidly moving mobile / tablet space. It needs to commit to frequent (annual) updates of the O/S, as well as 2 years (not 18 months) of support for currently shipping devices (as of the WP8 launch). It then needs to make sure that those updates get into users’ hands efficiently, without the delays that carriers have been imposing up to now (the unsupported upgrade announcement is one step in that direction).  It also needs to fully commit to a regular cadence of releases and upgrades so that users are confident in investing in the platform; right now they’re all just waiting to see if Microsoft will throw Phone users under the bus again in a year.

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From → Mobile phones

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