We’ve expressed concern about the prospects of upgrading current first—and second—generation Windows Phone handsets to Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, when it is released later this year. Microsoft refuses to commit publicly, and we’ve heard from employees within the company that some or all current users won’t be able to upgrade, even those who buy new, second-generation devices. Others have heard similar tales.
Nuno Silva, who works as developer evangelist at Microsoft, seemingly delivered a clear answer to the upgrade question in an interview with Portuguese technology site Zwame, but Microsoft won’t corroborate the statement. Though the original hour-long interview video appears to have been pulled, a fragment of it was saved by WMPoweruser. In the clip, the following translation is offered:
Q: In terms of devices, who today have one is it expectable that…
A: What Microsoft said/stated and what I’m allowed to tell you is that all actual devices will get upgrade to the next major version of Windows Phone (we´re talking about Apollo)
Q: When you say actual devices. Are all that came out to market?
A: Are all that came out. Since the first generation that were bought. The LGs and SAMSUNGs.. OMNIA 7 which were the first devices with Windows Phone reaching the market.
That seems nice and clear-cut, and sounds like good news for anyone who currently has a Windows Phone: they’ll all get an upgrade, even for their first-generation handset. Curiously, Silva refers to “what Microsoft said/stated,” but Microsoft hasn’t, in fact, issued any official statements about the availability of updates to Windows Phone 8 or spoken informally about the subject. that incongruity raises questions about whether Silva’s remarks are accurate.
We asked Microsoft for a comment, hoping to get something more than a ropey translation—maybe a word about when the software might be released, or what the situation would be for handsets such as the Dell Venue Pro that have been more or less abandoned by their manufacturers. But unfortunately, such a comment was not forthcoming. Instead, this is what Microsoft had to say, in a statement that is attributable only to a “Microsoft spokesman:”
We have stated publicly that all apps in our Marketplace today will run on the next version of Windows Phone. Beyond that, we have nothing to share about future releases.
We were also told that Microsoft hasn’t “shared any info on [the availability of upgrades] yet.” So on the one hand, we have a Microsoft employee, whose job it is to promote Microsoft technologies, talking about the updates while apparently representing Microsoft; on the other hand, we have Microsoft telling us that it hasn’t actually said a word about these updates.
The company is not actually saying that Silva was mistaken or misunderstood; it’s apparently claiming that no representatives of the company have said anything at all about update availability. We might expect this kind of response in the face of an unsourced rumor; it’s rather harder to reconcile with a video posted on YouTube.
It was also suggested to us that “it’s possible there was some confusion” between the statements that the company has made (that apps will be forward compatible) and the statements it refuses to make (that phones will be forward compatible).
What does it all mean? It’s possible that Silva is flat out wrong or, as Microsoft suggests, suffering from “confusion.” The translation might also be at fault in some important way.
Our guess, however, is that technically Windows Phone 8 will work on current Windows Phone devices (or at least most of them). However, that’s only part of the story: getting an update on any carrier-branded handset requires the carrier’s authorization, and some carriers aren’t very good at providing this authorization. Absent this authorization, Microsoft can’t promise any updates to anyone, ever, except in the case of critical security flaws. We suspect that this authorization may well not be in place, meaning that the company can’t actually make the kind of promise that Silva made.
We also note that insiders are continuing to say that current phones won’t be updated.
By this stage in the development of Windows Phone “Mango” 7.5, Microsoft had talked up the features of the new version at two separate public events: first last year’s Mobile World Congress in February, second at the company’s own MIX11 in April. The silence over Windows Phone 8 remains a cause for concern. Silva may ultimately prove to be correct; he may not. Either way, forcing current buyers to take that gamble can only hurt the platform.