When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

Summary: The nature of the computing ecosystem guarantees that those faced with problems caused by software updates will not find any company stepping up to get the problem resolved quickly.

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The Windows Phone 7 update problem that has adversely affected some Samsung handsets is not the first problem of its kind by a long shot. Since the first personal computer, the occasional update snafu has raised its ugly head time and time again. What also hasn't changed is the finger pointing that takes place after such a bad update creates problems for device owners. The very nature of the computing ecosystem guarantees that those faced with problems caused by software updates will not find any company stepping up to get the problem resolved quickly.

You've probably experienced this scenario at least once: a system update (doesn't matter what system or platform) gets an OS update. You properly apply the update only to find it breaks something that was working fine prior to the update. You contact the company that provided the update (again doesn't matter what company), only to be told that it must be something in your particular hardware. You're sent packing to the hardware vendor to get the problem straightened out. That company sends you back to the update provider, since it is clear their update caused the problem. You are in the dreaded endless support loop.

If the update is a smartphone, as is the case with this Windows Phone 7 problem, there's a third layer of finger pointing involved. One owner of a newly bricked Samsung phone comments on a ZDNet blog that Microsoft, owner of the update, promptly sent him to either his phone carrier who owns the business relationship with the customer, or to Samsung. The carrier told him the problem belonged to Samsung, maker of the hardware that is now inoperable. Samsung pointed fingers back at Microsoft, who produced the update that instigated the hardware failure. Samsung stated it would accept the phone to attempt to repair it, but could not guarantee a replacement if the repair failed as it was Microsoft's update that bricked it. Eventually the poor chap was told by the carrier that it would return his dead phone to Samsung on his behalf (not owning the problem but helping him out), and a repair/replacement would take place in 4 to 6 weeks. He'd get a loaner phone eventually, as the carrier was out of them currently.

While this is nothing new, it is directly attributable to a very broken support ecosystem. The company that makes the platform software does not make the hardware nor the driver software that makes the system talk to the OS. With smartphones the carrier adds its own stuff to the mix to get it all working on its network. It's the old "too many cooks" scenario, and the loser is the customer, the one who ponied up cash to get thrust in this position.

The reality is perception is everything, particularly in the mobile electronics space. The owner of the software, in this case Microsoft, owns the problem in the eyes of most consumers. No matter what (or which company) actually caused this update to fail on these WP7 phones, most everyone believes it is Microsoft's problem. They own the platform, they made the update, they own the failure. If business agreements exist that force Microsoft to send these owners with bricked phones to other companies for resolution, then shame on Microsoft for entering into them as such. You made a big deal about taking control of the Windows Phone 7 update process, Microsoft, so you'd better step up for a quick resolution. It is your reputation, plain and simple, that is taking the hit for this problem. Understand that, and resolve it on the behalf of the customers that are indirectly supporting you.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Windows

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19 comments
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  • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

    Correct. Microsoft should be the one helping him. But at the same time, Samsung should be helping Microsoft figure out a cure.

    Quit butting heads, and figure out how to straighten this mess out.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

      @Cylon Centurion 0005 <br>I agree.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

        @ptorning

        While I agree that MS, the carrier AND the hardware manufacturer ought to be falling all over themselves trying to help the consumer, on the other hand I disagree that MS (outright) owns the problem. It IS in MS' best interest to do all it can to correct the issue.
        If however it turns out to be a Samsung firmware issue, MS supplied the proposed update to Samsung and was given the greenlight by Samsung ... Samsung needs to own the problem and 'do what is right' by the consumers it let down.
        After all, are we to hold the OS liable for the spate of Chinese knock off caps that bricked so many consumer products over the past year and a half? What about the bad Intel chipsets that various hardware suppliers shipped ... does that problem land at the feet of the OS used by the vendor?
        noagenda
      • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

        @no agenda

        I actually wrote more than "I agree", but it got lost in the ZDNet system as supposed "spam" and I couldn't be bothered to re-type it. In short, I agree, provided that Samsung has abided by the requirements of MS in terms of hardware and software, including use of the SDK. If they've done that, then the problem is really one for MS.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
  • Microsoft has chose it's course on the mobile front

    and therefore needs to own up for the update causing problems on any platforms. Ultimately Microsoft has decided to go the Apple route and have a closed software ecosystem. With previous WinMo platforms the device makers had a lot of freedom with the OS (like Android now) and so the focus becomes more on the manufacturer. If all LG WinMo 6.5 phones have the same problem and no other phones do, it's the LG. But because MS set their sites on an Apple-esque closed platform it then becomes their responsibility on all devices.<br><br>What I'm curious about is the frequency of it happening. Is it all Omnias? If so then all three are to blame. Is it 1% of Omnia devices? I'm fairly certain Microsoft is looking at the same thing and I'm guessing it's a fairly small percentage. If not I think all three companies would have a solid plan and story in place already. They'd know exactly how to handle returns/replacements. It should be a concentrated effort of all three, allowing customers to go into the T-Mobile store and the rep transfers data/settings to a new device. I honestly think this is the only proper solution if the device honestly has no failsafe to manually restore it back to the original OS ROM. At the very least the Zune software should be able to restore the device's backup and get it running again.

    edit - Two more things. First, to the poster referenced by Mr. Kendrick: I personally would not have returned the device just yet. This is developing quickly and I would expect a plan in place in the next day or two worst case.

    Second: The biggest difference between the update hosing an OS on a mobile platform vs any desktop/server OS is that you either have a backup you can restore to or you can manually reload and reconfigure the OS. There is no option to do so on the mobile device therefore leaving the endless support loop an absolutely unacceptable solution and people should not stand for it. I really wanted a WP7 device but the more I think about this, the details over the next couple days and the response of the companies involved will likely decide if I ever buy another Windows Phone.
    LiquidLearner
  • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

    So you wrote this story about finger pointing and in the end and to no one's surprise you blame Microsoft anyway. That's a crock. This is not a Microsoft issue, its a Samsung issue and specific to a firmware they use. The perception is Samsung Omnia phones are not good but Microsoft is willing to help them out and resolve this issue. The phone is still under warranty therefore Samsung is obligated to replace it. This whole bricking thing was such a minor issue but ZDNet wanted to make it a storm in a teacup.
    Loverock Davidson
    • a very large tea cup its ms after all

      @Loverock Davidson
      its MS fault that they didnt test the update first on all devices .

      its samsung fault for not testing more deeply the update and its the customer fault for having choose a phone with MS windows as OS
      Quebec-french
      • And you started out you reply sensibly

        @Quebec-french
        yet finished up so idioticly. Though I suppose the same goes for those who purchased the iPhone 3G, then updated it into a near useless piece of electronics equipment.

        Or will you create an excuse for that or claim "it never happened"?

        :|
        Tim Cook
      • what makes you think they didnt? do you know for a fact that samsung didnt

        end up shipping some units with old firmware bugs that they were not supposed to ship to mo's until they fixed them? they could have been tested and failed months ago and someone turned around and shipped them anyway by acident or to save money. this is all just speculation at this point...
        Johnny Vegas
      • no no excuse

        @Mister Spock
        yes the same goes for the iphone 3g ... if they didnt test it the proper ways its there fault .......

        when something is not properly test who ever made it is guilty and should receive it across the face .....
        Quebec-french
    • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

      @Loverock Davidson Accoprding to Microsoft..."Of the remaining 10 percent (all the phones having issues), the top two issues encountered are the result of customer Internet connectivity issues and inadequate storage space on the phone or PC...These account for over half of the reported issues with this update." - NOT SAMSUNG

      Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-20035622-75.html#ixzz1EskrR0he
      Socratesfoot
  • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

    This is nothing new. Does anyone remember the inplace upgrade from Vista to Windows 7? I remember it well as I had to fix a computer for a friend. Calls to Microsoft were difficult as Microsoft pointed at the OEM. THe OEM said it was not their problem as it was a purchased upgrade. IN the End Microsoft offered to help for $125, and the OEM (Sony) gave instructions on how to Boot to the recovery partition. I took the Sony route, even though they did not have to go that far. Basically I had to reformat the main partition and start from scratch. I restored the original OS and did the upgrade myself, avoiding the ?inplace upgrade" method. To be honest, Microsoft should have offered ot pay for the time it took to fix their upgrade, but steadfastly refused to do so. So I ended up wasting several hours trying to fix yet another Microsoft screw up. On a positive note: Microsoft did issue a new product key for Office 2007, instead of making my friend pay for another license (due to Microsoft screw up).
    Rick_K
  • MS had to make their phones

    MS had to make their own phones this time.
    I do not know how hiring for software development jobs works at OEM companies but it seems that they have the worst of the worst software engineers and that they hire monkeys to write device drivers.
    On the other hand MS could release test tools that OEMs could use to make sure that their hardware and drivers really work.
    paul2011
    • They do

      @pauliusp

      Those tools have always existed for Windows I'm sure WP7 is no different. How widespread is this issue?
      LiquidLearner
      • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

        @LiquidLearner
        Like all problems of this type, it is a 100% problem to those experiencing it!
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
  • Sh** happens. What counts is how it's fixed and if they learn from it.

    Apple has bricked phones. They've also "upgraded" phones that were then unusably slow and left them that way for months. I'll be watching to see if this gets resolved in a timely fashion or not...
    Johnny Vegas
  • Wow what a lame post. Start with what &quot;some guy on the internet said...&quot;

    and go down hill from there. did you ask MS, samsung, or the carrier who owns these "brick" problems. I'd bet their contractual agreements spell it out pretty definatively. What makes you think it's not 100% the mo's responsibility and the floor sales rep just doesn't know that, this being the first time it's happened? Same for the oem help support line call taker or ms help support. If it's on ms then it's their fault if their help support people dont know that. But maybe it's not and they do know that.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: When system updates go bad, the platform owns the problem

      @Johnny Vegas
      Part of the issue is, though, that regardless of who was contractually at fault, each company should have been struggling to try and fix it ASAP.

      Heck, if Wal-Mart had been the point of sale, they would have taken it back and issued a refund to the buyer, just to keep the customer happy. They then would have charged the manufacturer, probably, but the customer doesn't care who pays in the end, as long as it isn't him!
      jglopic
  • Integrated platform advantage?

    See, it's not fragmented. That's the huge advantage over Android. There is really only one major Qualcomm platform and one responsible software party to manage updates in a timely, coordinated fashion. What could possibly go wrong? Hahahahaha.
    symbolset