In May 2015, Microsoft made a commitment that few of us long-suffering Windows Phone users dared to believe. Microsoft officials said they would take control of the Windows 10 Mobile updating process, ending years of Windows Phone users' frustration over carriers dragging their feet on operating-system updates.
On December 8, that promise looked a bit more realistic.
Microsoft pushed out to Lumia 950 and 950 XL users a minor update to the Windows 10 Mobile variant that shipped with their handsets. That update, Build 10586.29, was the first Cumulative Update to Windows 10 Mobile 1511, the RTM version of the operating system.This update came from Microsoft directly to users' phones. The update didn't come via carriers such as AT&T -- the only U.S. carrier to offer the Lumia 950 at this point.
(I can verify this, as my loaner 950 device still doesn't have an activated AT&T SIM in it, and I had the update pushed to me yesterday.)
I asked Microsoft officials if they were actually circumventing carriers to push out updates to Windows 10 Mobile. A spokesperson sent this statement (emphasis mine):
"Microsoft is working closely with mobile operators to leverage their testing and our flighting to meet and exceed current quality bars. We will use their input but will decide when to send the updates out based on input from mobile operators and our Windows Insiders."
So, yes, it's just the first of hopefully many regular updates to Windows 10 Mobile, but we got the Cumulative Update just a few days after most Windows 10 Insiders had a chance to test it -- other than some on Lumia 950XL devices, that is.
Yesterday, Microsoft pushed the update without any of the usual protracted "carrier testing and approval" stuff. It just worked.
Interestingly, Microsoft also pushed out the same Cumulative Update (10586.29, in the guise of KB 3116900) to Windows 10 PC users yesterday. So now Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 users who are not part of the Insider program are running for the first time the same build number of Windows 10, as Ars Technica's Peter Bright noted.
Windows and Devices Executive Vice President Terry Myerson thought that was something worth crowing about. He tweeted on December 8: "Big day, first update worldwide (and more to come) to all phones running #Windows10 - same build as PC!"
Microsoft officials had been looking for ways to circumvent mobile operators' practices of holding back Windows Phone OS updates for months and sometimes years. Last year, Microsoft provided a less-than-glamorous way for users willing to sign up as developers to circumvent the carriers to get the latest updates to Windows Phone 8.1 devices.
The real test of this new updating practice will happen soon, as Microsoft officials said existing Windows Phone 8.1 users will start getting Windows 10 Mobile offered to them starting in December. Officials have said the update will be coming over the air, but haven't provided a timetable as to exactly when or a definitive list of which handsets will and won't get the update.