Windows Phone 7 update problem: It's Microsoft, not the carriers

Microsoft has a real PR problem over the nightmare that is Windows Phone 7 updates, but has no one to blame but itself.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Microsoft has a real PR problem over the nightmare that is Windows Phone 7 updates, but has no one to blame but itself. My colleague Ed Bott may be willing to put the blame for lack of WP7 updates on AT&T, but I'm not giving the folks in Redmond a pass over this ridiculous situation. It's time for Microsoft to get its update house in order.

I agree with Ed, a friend whose work I respect, that AT&T's record on phone updates is not good. They've routinely left Android phone owners high and dry as far as updates go, so it's not a stretch to blame them for the lack of WP7 updates for customers. But where I differ from Ed's outlook is that I believe that Microsoft screwed the pooch if they have allowed the carrier enough leeway in the update process to adversely affect WP7 customers.

Even Microsoft admits that Windows Phone 7 is critical for the company to regain its former stature in the mobile space. Windows Mobile had its hey-day, which is long past. One area we were led to believe that would be different with WP7 is OS updates. Microsoft would control the process to insure phone owners get all updates in a timely fashion. This is not what is happening with WP7, thus the PR spin from Microsoft to put pressure on the carriers to get the updates out to customers.

While AT&T may be dragging its feet with the first WP7 updates as Ed suggests, Microsoft allowed that to happen and is getting what it deserves. The firm getting a black eye from this update situation is Microsoft, not the carrier, so the process allowing carrier control over updates is on Microsoft's back, fair or not. Given the abysmal history of WinMo updates that Microsoft admits was not good, why give any carrier the ability to affect WP7 updates? That almost guarantees a breakdown in the system, which we are seeing.

Apple understood with the iPhone from the beginning that phone updates were critical to maintain customer satisfaction. The company took complete control over iOS updates and removed the carrier from the process entirely. Apple updates the software, and all customers globally get the update at the same time. The carrier is a non-issue and Apple not only avoids a negative situation, it enjoys customer credit for getting the updates to everyone.

AT&T wasn't allowed to interfere in the update system from Apple, so Microsoft must bear the blame for allowing them to create the situation that Ed is blaming them for. To be fair to AT&T, not that they deserve it, few other carriers world-wide are actually providing WP7 updates yet. They all seem to be in one stage of the process or another according to the information provided by Microsoft, yet few owners are reporting actually getting the update. It's a mess by anyone's standards.

Don't get me wrong, Microsoft is not the only company with a platform that is victimized by other parties as far as system updates are concerned. I have long criticized Google for allowing the carriers to interfere with Android updates. Any company that puts the image customers have of its products in the hands of a third party is committing a major mistake. While I mostly agree with Ed that AT&T isn't helping Microsoft's cause, I'm not willing to give the folks in Redmond a pass. Microsoft shouldn't have given AT&T (or any carrier) the keys to the update kingdom.

See related coverage:

Editorial standards