GDRs and Microsoft's road to Windows Phone Blue

GDRs and Microsoft's road to Windows Phone Blue

Summary: The Windows Phone team seems to be doubling down on secrecy. But that doesn't mean an end to rumors about what's next for the platform on the OS front.


Leaks about an alleged new HTC Windows Phone in the works have a number of WP watchers wondering what a "GDR" is and how it relates to Microsoft's plans for its mobile platform.


The Windows Phone division has gone larely quiet, as of late. This seems to be a strategy, given PC Mag's report about Microsoft's back-room goings-on from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. "Shut up and ship" is the Windows Phone team's new rallying cry, PC Mag says, with commitments from officials to stop talking about new platform updates "months and months" before they are available.

Given that caveat, it's no surprise that we haven't heard anything about what's next for the Windows Phone OS from the team. Company officials aren't fielding questions about "GDR2" which is listed by as the operating system powering the alleged HTC Windows Phone "Tiara," due out this summer.

Here's what one of my sources -- who has been in-the-know about Microsoft's OS plans -- told me.

GDR stands for "General Distribution Release." It means a product update distributed commercially. It's a naming convention that various teams at Microsoft have used for years.

"Portico," which was the Windows Phone update that Microsoft, handset makers and carriers have been distributing over the past couple of months, is considered the "GDR1" update to the Windows Phone 8 OS, I hear.

GDR2 is the next Windows Phone 8 update. If the leaks about the HTC Tiara are correct, that OS release should be done in the next couple of months so that it can be preloaded on new Windows Phones coming this spring/summer.

I hear from my contact there's also a GDR3 on the roadmap. I have no information on what's in this or when it's slated to arrive.

After that, it's Windows Phone Blue. Windows Phone Blue is the Windows Phone OS update designed to bring the Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 app models and developer platforms more into sync. Supposedly the Windows Blue update includes new programming interfaces, kernel updates and some user interface enhancements (though nothing too major on the UI front, I've heard).

And about that "Apollo Plus" thing? From what I'm hearing recently, Apollo Plus isn't a codename for some Windows Phone OS update to Apollo (a k a the Windows Phone 8 OS). It was just a name the Softies used at one point to refer generally to updates to the Windows Phone 8 OS. I have no further information as to when/whether VPN connectivity is still on the roadmap, maybe as part of a GDR update, Windows Phone Blue or something beyond that.

The best news in all this, if you're an existing Windows Phone 8 user: All these GDRs and the Blue update itself should work just fine on your phone, according to Windows Phone Senior Marketing Manager Greg Sullivan. PCMag says Sullivan is claiming that Windows Phone 8 users should have nothing to fear from the coming upgrades.

In other Windows Phone news this week, there's an updated version of the official Twitter client for Windows Phone available in the Windows Phone Store. (Still no word on when that promised Twitter client for Windows 8/Windows RT will finally arrive.) And there's a new voice-activated assistant, Maluuba, for Windows Phone in the store, too. It's a Siri for the rest of us, they say....

Topics: Windows Phone, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Smartphones, Windows 8


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • " Windows Blue update includes new programming interfaces, kernel updates "

    i bet the current WP8 users are going under the but again since MS is going to change the software infrastructure again....
    • Under the bus?

      I don't think there is going to be a backward compat issue -- especially given Greg Sullivan's claim that the updates won't leave folks behind. I've heard it's unlikely to be a repeat of the Win Phone 7 situation, where users got 7.8 instead of the full 8.0 release. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • That makes sense, after all

        I think we all might be able to understand why that happened... WP8 just might have needed more power than most WP7 handsets offered. But now that most WP8 handsets (such as the Lumia 920, with a dual-core processor) have quite a bit of oomph behind them, they should be able to handle it.

        Though I bet it had more to do with the underlying system change, going from CE to the NT kernel probably would have required a lot of work from the manufacturers to get it to work right (and why would they not want the chance to sell new hardware?).
        • WP8 maintains hardware compatability

          In reponse to L3thargic - Microsoft have made clear that WP8 upgrades will not lead to a hardware break that WP7 to WP8 upgrade created. As pointed out, the change of OS kernal is the main driver for the hardware break - Microsoft would no doubt have apprehension about pushing out an 'update' that would be an entirely new OS, rather than an update.
          If we remeber the issue Samsung WP devices had with bricking after an update was rolled out we find out that this comes from Samsung switching to using unauthorised chipsets in some of the phones to save themselves money - as that happened and caused grief, I would have been very surprised if Microsoft pushed for WP8 being pushed out as an updated to WP7 devices.
        • wp7.8

          aldrighetti - wp7 couldn't be updated to wp8 because wp8 requires an encryption chip to run. so they made a wp7 version called 7.8 which only included what the phones could use without the encryption and without slowing them down to a standstill.

          now the phones all use these the encryption chips and will always be compatible with the newest version. I would imagine they will be on wp 10 before the wp8 devices run into compatibility issues again (due to memory or simply processor tech that reasonably new devices would be able to handle at that point in time...)
    • How much are you willing to bet?

      Dont write checks you cant cash.
  • great news

    It's good to hear that development is still active and I think MS should be merging WinRT and WP8 into a single, scalable platform. What I worry about is whether or not customers will get the upgrades. I'm a T-Mobile customer who had to "hack" my phone to get the 7.8 because T-Mobile decided not to roll it out. What I would really like are assurances that I will get the updates. Oh well, I've still got a year on my contract. We'll see what things look like then...
    • T-Mobile sucks so much

      My dad has a Samsung Galaxy S2 and when I tried to look for an OTA update, I found none. And it's still running Gingerbread, not EVEN ICS. Now I have to manually update it. T-Mobile sucks.
    • Hmmm...

      At least that will change soon enough... I think T-Mos move to do away with subsidies will get more people to do prepaid and also have better low-mid range phones. I had to do the same thing, but I'm prepaid so I could leave if I wanted...not worth another $1,200 over two years to be locked into something at a bigger carrier.
    • My son has HTC One X through AT&T

      And hasn't had an update in 8 months. Eventually this will become a big enough customer issue that carriers and phone makers will have to provide more frequent updates in order to compete.
  • I hate sprint!!

    Sounds like this new htc tiara phone is coming to sprint (new htc phone coming in summer). As a sprint customer could we please get one cool phone, please! And I also had to hack my phone to get the 7.8 upgrade, why because although I can get an upgrade there are no wp8 devices yet. I have been waiting to see what would be coming but now I think I am going to at&t
    Jeff Heldridge
    • re: I hate sprint!!

      Sounds like you're in the same boat as me. I got the Sprint HTC Arrive on the day it was released. I've been happy with it, but now I need WP8 and 4G LTE. Neither of which Sprint has in my neck of the woods (PDX). I'm moving to AT&T and getting a Lumia 920 this weekend.
      Sir Name
    • Going to ATT

      Going to ATT is jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I have had them for two years and have not had more than two bars at home ever. Its 50/50 if you can get a signal with them in a lot of places. And....they just don't care.
  • "bring the Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 app models and develo"

    So they'll all be able to suffer from common malware infestations?
    • Have there even any reports of malware on WP7, WP8 or WinRT?

      I haven't heard of any.
      • Don't Worry

        it will come, you can safely bet some nasty swine is banging away on a keyboard right now creating malware just for those devices!
        • Not popular enough

          It's not worth the effort yet.
  • Looking

    forward to seeing what come for WP8, but as far as Windows 8 is concerned, Microsoft can put it where the sun doesn't shine.
  • "Shut up and ship"

    I think this will work in MS favor. Part of the negative criticism for Windows Phone 8 is that it was shot down for not having this or that even before it was released. So waiting to see what it does after the actual release is a good thing. That also means not announcing a product that won't be available for months (Surface).

    Google follows this model and it works well for them. Don't believe it? What features will Key Lime Pie have? There's "speculation" as to what will be in it, but Google hasn't said anything.

    MS may generate excitement if they follow the same pattern as have said they would.

    Everybody WANTS LoseDoze Fone8 Operating System (O/S). Everybody NEEDS the INNOVATION and INTELLECTUAL property that will allows their phones to install the internet and browse the web and point and click and cut and paste and multitask and do all of the things that so insanely DIFFICULT if not outright IMPOSSIBLE to do with any other phone O/S.