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Summary:

Depending on whom you believe, Microsoft will either offer Windows Phone 8 as an upgrade to all current Microsoft-powered handsets or it won’t provide the software to any of them. Windows 8 could be the issue here, but Microsoft needs to publicly state its intent.

Windows Phone 7.5

Depending on whom you believe, Microsoft will either offer Windows Phone 8 as an upgrade to all current handsets running on Microsoft’s mobile platform or it won’t provide the software to any of those phones. Confusion is quickly rising over the situation, as there’s no official word from Microsoft yet on any future upgrade plans.

The two main reports come from WMPowerUser and The Verge, with the former suggesting the positive outcome: All existing Windows Phone devices will get the upgrade. The information comes from Microsoft evangelist Nuno Silva. I checked the official MSDN blog, and Silva has been an active member there since 2008, writing 27 blog posts with regard to programming using Microsoft technologies. Here’s his statement on the upgrade, via a video interview with a Microsoft enthusiast site:

Q: In terms of devices, who today have one is it expectable[sic] 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.

This information is the complete opposite of what The Verge reported, citing a trusted source who suggests there is no 8.0 upgrade path for devices running Windows 7.5. The Verge also shared an official statement from Microsoft: “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.”

Mary Jo Foley, a longtime writer on all things Microsoft, hinted back in March that only future handsets will see Windows Phone 8, which lends some credence to The Verge’s source. At that time, Foley heard that Windows Phone 8 would not get pushed out to existing phones.

I have to wonder if the decision isn’t settled internally at Microsoft yet. It knows it runs a huge credibility risk for its mobile platform if it decides to not upgrade existing Windows Phones. To its credit, it appears to be eliminating any application-fragmentation issues among versions in either case, which would be an improvement over similar challenges faced by Google Android owners.

Ultimately, if the apps for Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 would work on Windows Phone 8, a lack of OS upgrades would a minimal problem, at best, for most users. That leaves only new or enhanced functionality that existing Windows Phone owners might be missing. I don’t foresee the handset’s Metro user interface getting a total overhaul, so there shouldn’t be much of a difference in the look and feel. The bigger problem may be deep hooks in the new Windows Phone system with Microsoft Windows 8 on the desktop and tablets.

Still, handset owners are fickle — and I include myself in that light criticism. We want the latest and greatest of everything when it comes to both hardware and software. So if Microsoft doesn’t offer an upgrade path for its current user base, it will turn into a public relations issue. And that’s not something the company needs as it tries to stand out as the third viable mobile platform.

Regardless of how this plays out, I can’t understand why Microsoft wouldn’t offer the upgrade, at least for phones that debuted recently, such as the Lumia 710 and 900 (see our review here), or the HTC Titan II. The platform is well-optimized to run on minimal hardware, and the recent handsets should have plenty of horsepower to handle whatever Windows Phone 8 requires. If these won’t meet new minimum hardware requirements, Microsoft planned poorly — a definite possibility.

My hope is that Microsoft quickly addresses the confusion and states its intent for upgrades: Bad news (even if it’s not so bad) doesn’t get better with age.

  1. Which may be the reason Samsung is waiting for WP8/Apollo to release Window phones.

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    1. Great point and very possible! Of course, Samsung doesn’t seem to be hurting all that bad with its investment in Android, so it can afford to pay the “wait and see” game for Windows Phone.

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  2. The big annoyance would be when apps written for Windows Phone 8 wouldn’t work on old versions. Just like Kinect for Windows won’t run on Windows XP, your old models are worthless.

    Apple’s products seem to work the other way around, so you get OS upgrades on iPhones for around 4 years. People with iPhone 3GS can be running the same OS as someone with a 4S, the only difference is that the new phone might have some extra capabilities.

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  3. Windows Phone 8 will be very different than the current Windows Phone 7.5. Windows Phones will soon be getting high-end specifications similiar to some of the high-end Android OS smartphones which are available in the market these days. That is why it’s possible that all current Windows Phones won’t get the Windows Phone 8 software update.

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  4. It’s very simple. If Microsoft wish to seriously compete then they have to meet expectations. As a Lumia 800 owner when I bought it I expected that being a flagship device it would be upgraded, especially considering that the OS is still not mature (unlike say gingerbread to ICS). If they do not upgrade the 800 and 900 to Apollo say goodbye to Windows phone. They can’t afford to piss off early adopters.

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    1. I agree with you, Toma, and I think most WP owners would as well.

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    2. WP7.5 is pretty efficient when it comes to hardware. There is possibility that WP8 will have higher requirements.

      Which would you rather see happening:
      1. update that’s still called WP7.x that has all those updates possible to push to the device.
      2. WP8 having two sets of HW requirements, one for new devices that would make it possible to run all the new stuff, and one for WP7.5 devices that’s a bit toned down version with same updates as in choise 1, but with WP8 name on it.

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  5. Didn’t MS just introduce WP7. And now it ‘may not’ be possible to upgrade to WP8? Wow MS… smart move!

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    1. Windows Phone 7 handsets first arrived in October of 2010. Just clarifying to your first point. ;)

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      1. Windows Phone 7 – (1.0)
        Windows Phone 7.5 – (2.0)
        Windows Phone 8 – (3.0)

        At least my 286 ran all 3 versions of Windows.

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  6. You should wait for Windows Phone 8 SP2 before you upgrade anyway, which puts you out to…. lemme see… according to history… 2015 or 2016 before you need to worry about this.

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