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Apple’s iOS 4.3 Is Here, But Where’s Microsoft’s WP7 Update?

As much as I’m enjoying the use of new apps and the fresh interface provided by Windows Mobile 7, concerns keep me wondering if it really can take the third mobile platform spot. Take for example, the recent operating system update issue: Microsoft had to cease sending the software to specific Samsung handsets, although that situation is reportedly resolved, and updates are once again flowing out to Samsung handset owners.

But I don’t have a Samsung device — mine is an HTC model — and I still haven’t seen the first update, which actually doesn’t add functionality. It simply preps the phone for the next update that will add copy/paste features. At this point, I can’t see how Microsoft (s msft) will get that next update out to all phones on time.

Let me step back and clarify what I mean by “on time.” On Feb. 14 at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed where Windows Mobile 7 was at that time, and where the platform was headed. Microsoft published a corresponding blog post at that time, and here’s the relevant bit:

A free customer update will be made available for all Windows Phones in the first two weeks of March, which includes new capabilities such as copy & paste and faster application performance.

The update timeline isn’t one that I’ve created based on third-party reports or other info. Andy Lees, the president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business segment, wrote the blog post that explained Ballmer’s MWC presentation speech.

In my mind, we’re already into the second calendar week of March, although it’s reasonable to consider next Monday, the 14th, as the final possible date for an on-time Windows Phone 7 update copy/paste update. I think Microsoft is unlikely to meet that date at this point, given that some handset owners haven’t yet received the pre-update.

It’s not good sign that Apple today released its iOS 4.3 update for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices, slightly ahead of the company’s own stated schedule. Some older models aren’t supported in this Apple update, but how striking of a difference is this? Apple (s aapl) historically has had few issues with software updates (although it’s not infallible, either) and in some cases, such as the current one in progress, the company delivered before expected.

We really don’t know how many Windows Phone 7 devices Microsoft is dealing with, but we do know it’s a very small number when compared to the crop of supported iOS devices now getting an update. Apple claims to have sold more than 100 million iPhones, that contribute to the 160 million total iOS devices on the market. By comparison, I’d be surprised if even 2 to 3 million Windows Phone 7 devices have been sold to this point. And yet, getting updates to them still poses a challenge, or at least seems to.

As someone who uses devices powered by both operating systems, as well as that of Android (s goog), this isn’t about which mobile operating system is better. To be honest, the update isn’t bringing much to begin with, although what it does bring will be welcome. The situation is more a reflection about which company is most capable of managing its mobile platform and advancing it quickly.

I’ve said before that the Windows Phone 7 system may be moving too slowly, even though the public only has a high-level timeline with which to score the company. With the first real platform update however, Microsoft set a true deadline. At this point on the calendar, I’m not sure how Microsoft is going to meet it, although as the owner of an HTC HD7, I hope they do. There just isn’t room for further missteps in the timeline going forward.

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10 Responses to “Apple’s iOS 4.3 Is Here, But Where’s Microsoft’s WP7 Update?”

  1. The NoDo update will arrive late March.

    The following update, Mango, comes in 2012.

    The problem with this is that the NoDo update offers very little, apart from Copy And Paste. That’s the sole feature that Microsoft will have added during Windows Phone 7’s first 16 months of existence (WP7 went RTM in late August 2010).

    Kevin, this is nothing but a fiasco.

    Windows Phone 7 began life prematurely, missing features. It needed more fast updates than any other OS. The required updates to keep Windows Phone 7 competitive never came.

    Ponder this again. 16 months. Only C&P added. The OS has no chance in hell. If it fails, the users are the losers. Consumers who bought Sidekicks and Kins had all the services switch off a few months after those platforms failed. We know how this story ends, and consumers are going to lose with Windows Phone 7.

  2. “Apple historically has had few issues with software updates”

    Hmm, my selective memory is returning different results to yours in this respect :)

    In particular, updates 2.0, 2.0.1, 3.0, and 3.1.2 all famously experienced significant numbers of user complaining about bricked phones.

    Then there’s the issue of the 4.0 update that killed the performance of older 3G models utterly. Owners couldn’t even roll back this update, resorting to downloading a 3.1.3 image or retrieving one from a backup and manually fudging their iTunes to get their phone back to a level of usable performance.

    And finally, a litmus test for fellow iPhone owners: When the clocks change again this spring, what alarm clock will you be trusting?

  3. TrimSup

    hate too break it too you guys, but WP7 is just a hold over until W8 is released which will be 1 continuable scalable UI all the way from a phone upto the desktop, thats also why it will support ARM & x86.

    they plan on the name “Windows Phone” & “7” evaporating into the ether along with the OS when “Windows” “8” is released, the timing is on purpose.

  4. I think Microsoft in general is moving slowly. The Visual Studio 2010 service pack was slow in coming and is incomplete – the new development web server wasn’t included and will be available *soon*. They seem to have more and more CTP releases (and less betas) which is just a mess because none of them work together and you can’t reliably do anything until they are finalized. They seem to go full force after a technology (silverlight) and then just semi-abandon it.

    I’ve always been a big Microsoft fan but lately Apple has been winning me over because even Apple pre-release software feels a lot more “done” than a gold release from Microsoft.

    Something is certainly getting lost with their quality control/release management.

  5. I.. cannot believe I am defending MSFT, but I think it’s disingenuous comparing it to Apple, which at this point is updating essentially… one phone model. Users report the update wasn’t available for the CDMA iPhone 4 today, and the 2G and 3G have been completely EOL’d by Apple, with some features already deprecating the 3GS. Compare that to how many models/manufacturers MSFT is supporting on their first outing? I’m cutting them a little bit of slack.

    • Just because Microsoft has a horrible strategy doesn’t necessarily make it disingenuous to compare them to Apple. Apple has set the bar for what consumers expect and anything less is, deservedly so, going to catch heat. People have been conditioned to expect mediocrity. Glad the marketplace has finally spoken and said they will no longer tolerate that.

    • I’d agree with you except for two main points. First, Apple is updating the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (except CDMA), iPod touch 3rd gen, iPod touch 4th gen and iPad. Three different device classes, TBH. And the total number of Microsoft Windows Phone models (all one device class in a form factor / hardware that’s very similar across all models) is around 10 devices across 4 hardware vendors. That’s not really too many.

      Here’s my second and perhaps bigger beef: Microsoft has been updating phones since 2003 with Windows Mobile handsets. And they can’t get it together in 2011? That’s borderline inexcusable and illustrates the point I was trying to make: this is a poor reflection on them in the mobile space of today.

    • Uh, as soon as my phone receives the over the air notification from Microsft to connect my phone to Windows Phone Connector for Mac, I’ll do just that. Until that happens, there is no update to be had for my HD7. Just a thought. ;)