Word is out that the first Windows Phone 7 phones out this calendar year are going to be GSM models only (which means T-Mobile and AT&T will be the only carriers here in the U.S. out of the gate). GSM is what the majority of the worldwide carriers support. But that mean's Verizon and Sprint won't be offering Windows Phone 7 CDMA models until 2011.
That's not welcome news (at least for this Verizon customer)... What's worse, however, if News.com's paraphrase is on the money, is that Microsoft already is working on a "major rewrite" of the Windows Phone operating system. From Ina Fried's story from September 17:
"Microsoft has opted to delay until next year the CDMA version as it works to finish work on its major rewrite of its phone operating system."
What does this mean, exactly? Are we talking Windows Phone OS 8? Windows Phone 7.5? Will there be a firmware update coming for those consumers who do take the plunge and buy Windows Phone 7 phones in the next six months?
(I've asked Microsoft for clarification, but no word back so far.)
Update: Microsoft is saying the "major rewrite" comment is nothing but a reference to the first Windows Phone 7 operating system release that just RTM'd a couple weeks ago and isn't meant to imply anything about a follow-on. I didn't read the September 16 story on News.com that way, but that is what they are saying...
Paul Thurrott, Windows expert and author of Windows Phone Secrets (Wiley, 2010), said I shouldn't read too much into the "major rewrite" comment. His guess is that any near-term rewrite might include multitasking support, among other new features.
"Microsoft has been very upfront about its need to continually update the Windows Phone OS to achieve functional parity with the competition and fill in the missing holes. The only thing major that needs to change in the OS, from what I can tell, is to add third party support for low-level features like multitasking, or perhaps sockets, or other non-managed code functionality," Thurrott said. "But the good news is that Microsoft has also been upfront about their desire to keep Windows Phone users up-to-date. So unless something awful has happened, any v1 Windows Phones will be upgradeable to whatever Microsoft comes out with next year."
We do know that the version of the Windows Phone 7 operating system which Microsoft released to manufacturing earlier this month is still running on the Windows Embedded Compact 6.0 R3 core -- not the Windows Embedded Compact 7 one. (Windows Embedded Compact 7 is due to RTM itself some time before the end of 2010.) Among the features in the Embedded Compact 7 release are support for "the latest" ARM processors, Flash 10.1 support, improved rich-media handling and more.
I'll give Microsoft a couple of kudo points for transparency. Unlike some other vendors, Microsoft's mobile team at least is admitting (when probed) that there's an operating system update coming. saying there will be updates coming to Windows Phone OS. But what's going to be part of these updates? If it is "just" the addition of CDMA support, then that's one thing. But we still don't know how and when Microsoft will be upgrading the OS to include the Embedded Compact 7 bits, multitasking, etc.
But the words "major rewrite" are definitely scaring me off from being among the first to try out a Windows Phone 7 Version 1.0 device. You?
I'll add more from Microsoft if/when I hear back about what "major rewrite" is meant to imply...
In related news, Microsoft officials said this week that the company has no plans to make another smartphone itself, after the failed Kin debut this year. Too bad no one asked whether Microsoft planned to make another portable media player itself....