Windows Phone 7.8 -- the update for Windows Phone 7.x that adds tile multisizing support -- is going to roll out to "as many devices as possible" by early 2013.
That's the latest timing, and is now officially acknowledged by the Softies, as noted in a November 28 Windows Phone blog post.
The post, authored by Windows Phone chief Terry Myerson, noted that Windows Phone 7.8 is starting to roll out now on new, lower-priced phones in many countries around the world.
But it's the existing Windows Phone users who've been most eagerly awaiting news of the update since Microsoft first mentioned plans to offer 7.8 as an olive branch for those who would not be getting the Windows Phone 8 operating system on their phones. The loyal early adopters are going to have to wait a bit longer.
From Myerson's post:
"We know you’re eager to get the Windows Phone 7.8 update, and we want you to know that we’re working closely with our hardware and carrier partners to get it tested, approved, and rolled out to as many devices as possible in early 2013. As we work to quickly get this in the hands of our loyal users, we’re also striving to deliver a high-quality release and ensure a smooth transition for our widely expanded services."
I've heard previously that it will be up to handset makers and carriers as to which phone models get the 7.8 update. I have not heard how these decisions will be made, however.
The Windows Phone OS 7.8 update is designed to allow users to choose among three sizes of tiles (small, medium and large) on their home screens. As far as I have heard, there are no other new features coming in the 7.8 update. If Microsoft has changed its stance on this and added other new features, officials have not stated that fact publicly. I stand corrected. There are a few other minor updates that are part of the 7.8 release, including double the number of available theme and accent colors; option to automatically display the Bing Picture of the Day on the lock screen; and a PIN/password challenge to prevent accidental device wipes. (Thanks @Sergio_TheOne for pointing this out.)
In other Windows Phone news, Microsoft yesterday confirmed that it will be delivering a fix for thein December 2012. Microsoft is going to deliver the fix as an over-the-air update. I have asked whether there will be additional updates bundled with this and whether the fix will come directly to users from Microsoft or via carriers. So far, no word back on either question.