Microsoft (finally) gets its mobility act together – but cuts loose early adopters of the Windows Phone OS

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last night, Microsoft announced plans for the next version of its Windows Phone operating system – Windows Phone 8. In many ways it was a great announcement. Windows smartphones will have a “common core” with desktop Windows. The Windows ecosystem is converging, maybe a little late, but I said Windows 8 could be a turning point for Microsoft and Windows Phone seems to be a part of that.

Tom Warren had a great post up almost immediately at the Verge on what what was announced for Windows Phone 8. But Tom also highlighted, as did Simon Bisson at ZDNet, that there was a sting in the tail. A very big sting. And its target is the very people who adopted Windows Phone 7 – arguably the community that Microsoft needs in order to make Windows Phone 8 a success.

Current generation Windows Phone (Mango) devices will not be upgradable to Windows Phone 8 (Apollo).

There will be an update for Windows Phone 7, taking it to 7.8 (extending Microsoft’s marketing abuse of version numbers) but it’s little more than a few cosmetic changes. Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows Phone 8 but not vice versa (exceptions being those that are not compiled to take advantage of new Windows Phone 8 functionality, or Siverlight apps for Windows Phone, themselves sidelined for XAML/C#). Given that we’re starting out from a fairly limited pool of apps, that pool is likely to get smaller as apps are updated; and it pretty much kills the current Windows Phone market stone dead.

I switched to Windows Phone because I thought it was fresh, different, and because Microsoft positioned it as the future of their smartphone story. The big reset happened when Windows Mobile was killed off two years ago in favour of Windows Phone. I thought (still do think) that iOS has become stale, its UI is tired and has become clunky in places (in fairness, so is Windows Phone at times) but at least the aging iPhone 3GS that my employer provides runs the latest version of iOS. Meanwhile, Android is fragmented and has its own problems around security and an incoherent tablet story (don’t write it off just yet though). I didn’t buy an HTC HD2 because I knew that Windows Mobile 6.5 devices wouldn’t be upgradable to Windows Phone 7 (that much was already known long before Windows 7 appeared). Instead, I waited for Nokia to release some (semi-) decent hardware for Windows Phone and, just 7 months later, they made it obsolete – and I simply don’t buy that they were unaware of Microsoft’s roadmap for Windows Phone. I know that technology adoption is a risky business but I expect my device to at least last as long as a standard mobile phone contract (2 years) and my Lumia 800 has a limited future ahead of it.

So my few months old Nokia Lumia 800 is EOL'ed in a few months. Gee thanks Microsoft.
Jon Honeyball
Several people making the very valid point that Microsoft is rewarding its early adopters by cutting them adrift. Goodwill evaporates.
Barry Collins

Some say that users will always complain: either that there’s no legacy support; or that legacy support is bloating the OS – but a published roadmap that allows consumers to make informed choices (together with N-1 version support) should really be the minimum acceptable standard.

Microsoft owned the roadmap. Microsoft controlled the reference architecture. Microsoft prevented OEMs from increasing the hardware capabilities of Windows Phone devices (screen resolution, adding multiple cores, etc.) and now Microsoft is preventing even recent hardware from running its latest phone OS. In short, Microsoft is screwing its early adopters.

I really do hope that all those consumers that Microsoft and Nokia have been (knowingly) marketing dead-end Lumia devices too of late have an opportunity to force support for Windows Phone 7-class hardware to continue until Windows 9 comes along (giving users 2-3 years of current device support). Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen (unless there are some very smart lawyers involved).

One thing’s for sure. This Windows Phone user will be thinking very, very carefully before committing to any future mobile device purchases running Windows. Once bitten, twice shy.

@ +1 And brand trust will become more important as more and more personal stuff is inside your phone
carolina milanesi

8 thoughts on “Microsoft (finally) gets its mobility act together – but cuts loose early adopters of the Windows Phone OS

  1. ” I know that technology adoption is a risky business but I expect my device to at least last as long as a standard mobile phone contract”

    Nothing that happened yesterday means that your device won’t be running when your contract ends. Not only that but your device is going to be getting a significant update soon bringing with it the most significant change in WP8 (i.e. the new start screen) plus, I would wager, lots of other stuff too. The stuff it wont get is stuff that it doesn’t have hardware for anyway (e.g. NFC).

    Storm in a teacup!

  2. We’ve discussed this before, in fact, you gave me the (now very sage) advice not to invest in a Nokia Lumia 900 just in case this happened.

    I think that this announcement is really disappointing. Microsoft have taken a group of people who went against the grain and gave MS the benefit of the doubt (rather than buying the latest iPhone) and told them “Thanks, but now spend more money with us!”. Having done exactly that with the previous Phone OS as well (HD2, as you know!), it makes you wonder if they *want* users to be evangalists.

    My current Windows 7 Phone doesn’t have a compass. If I try to download an app that uses the compass feature, it warns me that it won’t work. I don’t understand why this can’t be done on the new OS. Either that, or Microsoft should offer a cashback scheme for people who bought recent devices, sending the old device off to a charity or something.

    Imagine if one of the hardware OEMs had released a phone, and then 2 months later, it wasn’t compatible with a software upgrade – that OEM would be the recipient of some very bad social media coverage…

    This will generate an awful lot of bad blood with users – and just as it looked like Microsoft was getting it right (Surface, E3 XBox stuff…)

  3. The Anonymous tag confused me… but I think I know who you are now ;-) Sounds like I should have taken my own advice a few months earlier then with the Lumia 800…

  4. Yes, sorry about that – I thought the web page had crashed, went to repost and got told it had been posted already.
    On another note, and I’m just curious, given the price premium of the Nokia Lumia 900 at the moment, and the fact that it doesn’t contain enough hardware to support an OS that will be released in the next 6 months, just how much are these Windows Phone 8 devices going to cost? Please don’t tell me I have to take out a 2 year contract just to be able to afford the thing!

  5. Sorry Jamie, I can’t agree. Existing devices will continue to function, yes, but the number of available apps will decline, and I’ll be surprised if there are any more updates after 7.8. Those who bought in early have 18 month or 2-year old phones by the time of Windows Phone 8’s launch, but my Lumia 800 will be less than a year old.

    We’ve come to expect smartphones to be upgradable and this is the second “reset” Microsoft has performed in (just over) 2 years for its phone platform. If I was an ISV, would I go to the trouble of compiling code to be compatible with Windows Phone 7.5 when I update my app? Probably not – supporting just one OS reduces my support costs – so I expect the pool of available apps (which is why we buy smartphones) to become smaller over time. Maybe you can convince me of reasons why this will not be the case?

    Then there’s the issue of finance. Smartphones are not cheap, whether you take them as part of a contract or buy outright. Previously, I could sell an 18m or even older phone for a decent price and use the proceeds towards a new model. Not with Windows Phone (would you trust them not to do the same again with Windows Phone 9?) – a new iPhone suddenly looks like a safer bet – and it’s got more apps to boot.

    If we can’t agree, I’m sure we’re not alone. Even the analysts are divided on this: Gartner’s Micheal Gartenberg agrees with you; whilst IDC’s Nick Macquire talks of Nokia’s Lumia hardware trying to breakthough and becoming “redundant”. Brand trust will be key as we rely increasingly on our phones. Microsoft/Nokia just lost mine.

  6. My previous advice would have been to buy outright, take a SIM only mobile carrier agreement, and sell the device when you want the next shiny thing. Unfortunately if your device has no future, its resale value may be limited. Who knows. My advice today (for most people) would be “buy an iPhone”… (it’s a bit like nobody getting fired for buying IBM!)

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