Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

Summary: One of the biggest criticisms of Windows Mobile and Android devices is that device manufacturers get control over who gets OS updates. I've never had an official, on the record, response, so I asked again, and this time I got a definitive response. "We're in charge," says Microsoft.

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Update 11-Nov: For skeptics who still think carriers will try to sabotage the update process, see my follow-up post: Cutting through the FUD about Windows Phone updates.

One of the biggest criticisms of Windows Mobile and Android devices is that device manufacturers get control over who gets updated versions of the OS. That leads to awkward situations where someone pays big bucks (and signs a long-term contract) for a high-end device that can't compete with rivals only a few months later, because the device maker is dragging its feet on releasing the OS upgrade.

Although I've asked the question many times over the past year when I've met with individuals on the Windows Phone team, I've never had an official response. So I asked again, on the record, and got a definitive response: If Microsoft releases an update for your phone, you get it. Period.

I was inspired to ask the question by a reader in the Talkback section, bmgoodman, who put it bluntly and succinctly:

Can you point me to an official position by Microsoft as to who controls the OS updates? I ask because I don't trust AT&T to do it. In nearly 4 years AT&T never once pushed a firmware update to my Sony Ericsson phone, despite the fact that S.E. released several updates.

I don't think there's much upside for AT&T to upgrade. You already own the phone. They have your money. Most non-tech users won't know one version from another. There's only the downside that something might go wrong during the upgrade, and then it will cost AT&T time and money to fix it.

The other possibility is that even if Microsoft plans to push the upgrades (bypassing AT&T), will the hardware support it? Or will it happen that the current Focus can handle (for example) Windows Phone 7.0.6 and nothing newer?

The official response from Microsoft, on the record:

Microsoft will push Windows Phone 7 software updates to end users and all Windows Phone 7 devices will be eligible for updates.

No equivocation, no qualifiers. And because of Microsoft's strict control over the hardware standard we're unlikely to see oddball hardware configurations that don't qualify for OS upgrades.

Anything else you want me to find out? This "ask a question" stuff could catch on.

Topics: Telcos, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, AT&T, Windows

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62 comments
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  • If Windows Phone 7 fails, there will be no updates

    Windows Phone 7 is selling badly. Look at the other story on ZDNet tonight:<br><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/did-windows-phone-7-only-sell-40000-handsets-on-launch-day/10288" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/did-windows-phone-7-only-sell-40000-handsets-on-launch-day/10288" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/did-windows-phone-7-only-sell-40000-handsets-on-launch-day/10288" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/did-windows-phone-7-only-sell-40000-handsets-on-launch-day/10288" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/did-windows-phone-7-only-sell-40000-handsets-on-launch-day/10288</a></a></a></a><br>Windows Phone 7 only sold a dismal 40,000 units on its first day of sale. Proportionately per handset model, it is doing worse than KIN did.<br><br>Microsoft's answer for updates is a non-answer. Yes, Microsoft will push the updates out, but some of those updates will be from wireless carriers who add their own modifications, and then submit them to Microsoft (to get pushed out), which will take time and cause delays.<br><br>After Windows Phone 7 is discontinued, nobody can expect any updates or fixes (as KIN owners learned the hard way).
    Vbitrate
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @gyepera
      Wow, the troll are on full attack mode today. What are you afraid of?
      illegaloperation
      • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

        @day2die

        LOL, they sure are! You can tell Android and I-Phone users by the posts here. They don't post anything positive. Only attack MS and give no praise where it's deserved! What's wrong guys? I suppose we all hate what we fear!
        Rob.sharp
    • That is rubbish

      @gyepera,

      WP7 phones were sold out in many places by the middle of the day on Monday, resulting in WP7 selling much better than expected by OEMs. In fact there are WP7 phone shortages throughout the world, and it is difficult to gauge now, how well these phones can sell. My own prediction is that WP7 will significantly impact Android sales by the middle of 2011, and will curtail the growth of the iPhone - even if it comes to Verizon next year. I believe it is possible for MS to reach 20 or more percent market share by the end of 2011: MS just has to continue marketing and building out its ecosystem like it is doing now.
      P. Douglas
      • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

        @P. Douglas
        Well, both my local AT&T and T-Mobile stores are sold out.
        illegaloperation
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @gyepera Just go get one. You know you want to.
      razzledazzle
    • Is gyepera a child molestor?

      @gyepera
      See, [b]anyone[/b] can make [b]any[/b] statement as long as they put it in the form of a question!

      [i][b]Did[/b] Windows Phone 7 only sell 40,000 handsets on launch day?[/i]
      NonZealot
    • utting sales figures in context

      EVEN IF those figures are accurate (and I have my doubts)...

      The first Android phones sold one million devices in the first two calendar quarters. That's an average of 16,000 per day. Obviously they are doomed.

      Oh. Wait.

      And the Motorola Droids sold 100,000 in their first full weekend last year. That's an average of between 33K and 50K per day, a year after the platform was launched. Obviously doomed.
      Ed Bott
      • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

        @Ed Bott Ouch! nicely researched, I think I will keep this when I see the weak-minded quoting sales figures again. - Thank you.
        ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @gyepera

      You have to be getting paid for this FUD, if not, I suggest counselling.

      The questions for WP7 - (I love the phone btw, have purchased 4 for my business)

      I would have liked C&P during setup. Don't have much need now, but WHEN is C&P happening?

      I create interactive eLearning that needs to synchronise text/graphics/sound/video. I can do this on the iPad and iPhone with HTML 5 as well as other browsers and platforms. Not however, for WP7 atm. Would be happier if I could use Flash. WHEN is Flash 10.1 for WP7 going to be available?

      This questions is for all the smartphones. Why are there no cursor keys? Yes I know I can put my finger on a line for a second and get a text cursor (although I find the iPads magnifier confusing and a bit hit and miss). Even a pop-up pad like the movement available in a lot of the games would be nice or some weird 3 or 4 finger gesture. While you're at it how about a Del key or are we all going to be limited by Apple's design? I can put up with limited editing for short text etc, but I have the opportunity to edit One Note and Doc files and a little more control would be great. I'd love to do an app, but I suspect direct access to the input methods is not available.

      One thing WP7 has is depth and sophistication. The UI is consistent and very easy to use and I appreciate the large text headings and use of pictures/icons for those of us with eyes that are over 40. It makes the iPhone look so last century, even though it's only a few years old. The automatic synch of all my photos, calendar, emails and SkyDrive is the icing on the cake.

      I feel sorry for Donnie and ITguy and gyepera, this phone is so good, they are going to be feeling bad for a long time ;-)
      tonymcs@...
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @gyepera That's a jealous/nervous response if I have ever seen one.
      ItsTheBottomLine
  • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

    @iluvmsft "the number of people who are dismayed about the shortcoming of iPhone +"<br><br>Consumer surveys have shown pretty consistently that only about 6-9% of iPhone owners are planning to buy something else next time around. Roughly 23-30% of Android owners are planning to buy something else and about 25% of RIM owners. I have little doubt that Microsoft will sell WP7 phones, but it will most likely come at the expense of RIM and Android, not Apple. <br><br>FWIW, I own an Android phone myself (Droid Eris, barely a year old and no longer eligible for updates beyond the 2.1 it shipped with--pathetic, Google!) This article really sparks my interest in WP7.
    Andre Richards
    • Blame Motorola & Verizon for that, not Google

      @Andre Richards I'm not a Google fan by any stretch, but I'll give them a pass on this one. If you can't get the current version of Android for your device it's the OEM and/or carrier's fault, unless it doesn't meet the hardware requirements (which you could probably also blame the OEM for).<br><br>The warning flag for potential WP7 owners is, will your carrier screw <i>you</i> the same way they've screwed their Android owners? MS may make those updates available, but if your carrier blocks it you'll be in the same boat as Motorola Cliq owners (c.f. <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/motorola-cliq-finally-gets-upgraded-to-android-21/19832?tag=content;selector-blogs" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/motorola-cliq-finally-gets-upgraded-to-android-21/19832?tag=content;selector-blogs</a>)
      matthew_maurice
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @matthew_maurice
      Carriers can't control Zune sync like AT&T and other iPhone carriers can't control iTunes. The updates are from Microsoft not carriers or makers. Is english not your first language?
      Here is the official statement:
      "Microsoft will push Windows Phone 7 software updates to end users and all Windows Phone 7 devices will be eligible for updates."

      Even if the update is less than 20MB, in which case the update can be done without Zune Sync by OTA, you are still getting update from MSFT not carriers, FYKI. Your statement about update is just FUDspread.
      Ram U
    • My reading comprehension is just fine, thank you.

      @Rama.NET It may be <i>yours</i> that needs some help. Nothing in that "official statement" precludes what Paul Thurott quotes Microsoft corporate VP Joe Belfiore as saying, namely that "If a carrier wants to stop an update they can." <br><br>I believe Microsoft <b>will indeed</b> build the updates, push them out to users, and make all WP7 users eligible for them. However, I am also equally confident that the carriers won't just sit idly while Microsoft reduces them all to "dumb pipes." If there's anything in those updates that the carriers don't like, they'll simply refuse to approve them. Microsoft's statements [b]all[/b] remain true, but the user still doesn't have the update. So, don't expect tethering, custom ringtones, or any other functionality that a carrier doesn't like (i.e. supersedes an in-house money-maker). <br><br>In fact, I'll bet that we just saw Verizon leave the WP7 party completely. Speaking of bets, what this discussion really comes down to is whether you want to bet that Microsoft will prevent your carrier from screwing you or not. As a lot of Android owners, including OP Andre, have found out, in the battle between OEMs and carriers, carriers usually win.
      matthew_maurice
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @matthew_maurice

      I ususally agree with RAMA on his posts, but I think he jumped on you without merit.

      I own the original Droid which Verizon finally updated to Android 2.2 (Froyo) months after it was released. If MY phone can run Froyo, then all subsequent phones should be able to run it. However, like you said, there are still quite a few Android phones still running older versions of the OS more than 6 months after Froyo's release. I agree with you that the carriers have way more control over which phones get what upgrade than they should. I do hope that MS is telling the truth, and that ALL WP7 phones will get the updates as they come out, but I suspect that part of the reason iPhone is not on Verizon has something to do with updates (as well as other control Apple demands)and if they can't convince Verizon to go along with them, what makes anyone think MS can?

      The common consensus for Verizon NOT upgrading Android on some of the phones is simply that the carrier wants the customer to upgrade to a new phone, thereby having to sign a new contract. Unfortunately, they don't want to give you a discount on that new phone unless you have had it for 18 months, so a lot (if not most) of people will wait until then. Those who don't wait pay the carrier more for the phone as well as extend their contract, so the carrier wins again.

      RAMA's assumption that Verizon cannot block anything coming from the Zune interface is most probably true, however I highly doubt that the WP7 OS is under 20mb, so If that is the limit Zune can transfer, it WILL be up to Verizon to provide the update.

      I guess we will just have to wait and see. I am still a little curious why there were no CDMA phones available for the initial launch. Maybe MS and Verizon haven't sealed the deal yet, since there is only a 'early 2011' release date on Verizon, same with Sprint.

      Didn't mean to turn this into a Verizon rant, just that I have had their service for many years now, and I have been screwed by them more than once. Unfortunately, it is the only service that works at my house, so I am stuck with them.

      I guess we will find out soon enough what happens, but I won't risk buying into WP7 until we know for sure.
      babyboomer57
    • One more thing.

      @Rama.net [i]"Even if the update is less than 20MB, in which case the update can be done without Zune Sync by OTA, you are still getting update from MSFT not carriers, FYKI."[/i] [b]Oh really?![/b] Microsoft acquired a wireless network that I didn't hear about? How is a Windows Phone 7 device getting a <20MB update over-the-air if the carriers aren't involved?
      matthew_maurice
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @Andre Richards
      Agreed. Samsung/Sprint hung me out to dry with the Moment. It's sad that "every phone is eligible for updates" is now a marketing bullet-point.
      PolymorphicNinja
    • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

      @Andre Richards - And exactly how would those iPhone owners have an opinion about something 99% of them have never seen?
      Woned B. Fooldagan
  • RE: Microsoft is in the driver's seat for Windows Phone updates

    @iluvmsft Your forgot the AT&T staff. They will be getting free phones too:
    http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/10/15/microsoft.gives.wp7.phones.to.att.workers/
    bitbonk