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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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