Customers that bought a Windows Phone prior to this October won’t see the latest and greatest Microsoft software on their handheld. Instead, they’ll get Windows Phone 7.8 in early 2013, which adds resizable Live Tiles and new themes; Nokia devices will also gain some Nokia-specific applications.
While underwhelming in scope, the Windows Phone 7.8 update will be welcome to those who own older Windows Phones. Yet, despite the widespread introduction of Windows Phone 8, vendors still plan to release Windows Phone 7.8 devices, which isn’t a good idea.
With the big Window Phone 8 launch, legacy device owners have been waiting for details on their upgrade and on Wednesday, Microsoft broke its silence. Early 2013 isn’t an exact date but it doesn’t appear that Microsoft can commit to any specifics because of carrier involvement. In a blog post, Microsoft said it is “working closely with our hardware and carrier partners to get it tested, approved, and rolled out to as many devices as possible in early 2013.”
Microsoft still plans to sell new Windows Phone 7.8 devices through hardware and carrier partners, which I find surprising. These will be priced low in hopes of “strengthening the ecosystem by bringing more Windows Phones to more people.” That simply doesn’t make sense save from a branding perspective.
Let’s face it: Old Windows Phones are dead-end handsets because the platform isn’t going to see vast improvements and there will be growing compatibility issues. If anything, keeping Windows Phone 7.8 alive on new devices actually fragments the ecosystem when apps that run the new platform aren’t available for the old one. It’s bad enough that Microsoft put new customers ahead of those who supported its mobile platform for the past two years; it shouldn’t continue the pain by providing it to a wider audience.