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Lack of upgrade path gives cause to pause, but may not affect the average buyer significantly

While the official party line from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is that it has not announced whether there will be an upgrade path for Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) handsets, such as the Lumia 900 LTE by Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V), to future operating system versions, the rumor-mill is abuzz that the answer is "no".

I. No Upgrade Path for Windows Phone Mango

No one knows precisely when the next version of Windows Phone will land.  But leaked slides from 2011 point to a Q2 launch of a lightweight variant (Tango) and a Q4 (likely October alongside Windows 8) launch of the next high-end release --- Windows Phone 8 (code-name: Apollo). With Mango devices like the Lumia 900 finally starting to appeal from an aesthetics and hardware perspective, the question on the minds of many is whether these second-generation Windows Phones will be compatible with the third-generation Apollo operating system.

Again, there's been no official word from Microsoft, but signs pointing to "no" began when blog WMPowerUser interviewed Microsoft developer-cum-WP promoter Nuno Silva, who claimed that the devices would be eligible for upgrade:

That possibility was cast into serious doubt, when Mr. Silva posted a blog followup retracting his claim and apologizing.  In the blog he writes:

I recently participated in an interview with the Portuguese website Zwame, where I made some comments on the future of Windows Phone that created confusion. Rumors are swirling, so I feel the need to clarify my statements.

The point I was attempting to make was simply that existing Windows Phone applications will run on the next version of Windows Phone. This is the same guidance that Microsoft shared late last year.

I mistakenly confused app compatibility with phone updateability, which caused the rumors we saw yesterday.  I did not intend to give the impression I was offering new guidance on any products under development or their upgradeability.

While there has been no official word, that denial coupled with reports from top reporters with ties to Microsoft -- SuperSite for Windows' Paul Thurrott [link], ZDNet-veteran Mary Jo Foley [link], and The Verge's Dieter Bohn [link] -- indicates that it’s unlikely that any Mango device will receive an Apollo upgrade.

Paul Thurrott offers perhaps the most insight, writing:

First, there’s no economic imperative; Microsoft’s partners have sold very few Windows Phones, and supporting a new platform on legacy hardware would be expensive. Second, the experience would be terrible; Windows Phone 8 is based on Windows 8, not Windows Phone 7.x, and requires headier, higher-end hardware with two or more core processors. Third, handset makers and wireless carriers would never support this upgrade; they want to sell new phones. And finally, wireless carriers would never, ever, ever, ever deliver this update to users.

Of course Microsoft has already made it absolutely clear that Mango will continue to received patches and updates -- including bug-fixes, performance enhancements, and security-updates -- until end-of-life (EOL).  So, no upgrade does not mean "no update", by anyone's estimation.

Sources: YouTube [Interview], MSDN, SuperSite for Windows

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RE: Rumors and nothing more.
By JasonMick on 4/23/2012 12:25:00 PM , Rating: 0
I said currently twice in the same sentence. My apologies.

True but Paul Thurrott has very close ties to Microsoft and he comments that Microsoft directly indicated this to him. That's about as close as you can get to confirmed without official word from MSFT.

I could see a reversal if there's enough negative PR, but ultimately the bigger question, I see is "who cares".

While it might be cause to hold of an August/September purchase, I do not expect Apollo to offer a major makeover in terms of user interface. Mango already has a very advanced UI. I expect most of the improvements to be on the API side, allowing advanced gaming support and perhaps better multi-threading. I just don't see that much cause for Microsoft to make over its UI and even if it didn't I don't see why Mango owners would care. In my experience Mango's UI is already as good an experience as a heavily-customized Ice Cream Sandwich, without the time cost of that heavy-customization.

I have few complaints in a UI department, most of my gripes with Windows Phone have been isolated to the browser's performance on certain sites seems to esp. struggle on text -- our text is actually rendering better, despite no change in the code, indicating a fix to the browser with the recent update, however some sites like continue to have issues with jumbo text -- issues isolated to Windows Phone as far as I can tell... or the AT&T network (I'm seriously considering getting a femtocell for my zero-coverage (practically) office.)

No Mango? No big deal, as far as I am concerned. I'll get a Apollo device likely in a year or so, but until then I'm not losing any sleep.

You're going to have a tough time implementing HLSL on current-gen Windows Phone GPUs -- even the Lumia 900's. It may be necessary evil to forgo the updates, in order to upgrade the API and make it easier to port PC/Xbox 360 games to Windows Phone.

If Microsoft can do that, it may offer mobile game developers of all levels a superior model than Google or Apple -- who to my knowledge still don't have much in the way of shader support.

Is the Lumia 900 doomed? Hardly. I'm loving it, Mango and all.

RE: Rumors and nothing more.
By Varun on 4/23/2012 12:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, with Paul saying it is not going to happen, it certainly seems like it is not going to happen. Still, I think it is a mistake since I doubt there is any technical reason that they can't get around. I mean, they have basically help a single hardware spec since launch. The device makers would have to tailor it though, something I doubt most of them would do.

RE: Rumors and nothing more.
By hydrata on 4/23/2012 2:57:57 PM , Rating: 2

I bought the AT&T M-Cell a few months ago and it's made my life much easier. If you do the same, I suggest calling customer service first and complaining a bit about service quality. I was told to do this by rep's at an AT&T store, so I wasn't just being a whiner. After speaking with the customer service rep on the phone, he agreed to place a $100 credit on my account. Also, AT&T was running a promotion at the time where if you sign up for unlimited calling minutes for the M-Cell you get a $100 credit. I was able to cancel the unlimited minutes for the M-Cell after one billing cycle but still keep the credit. These two tactics resulted in my M-Cell being almost free. Give it a shot.

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