On April 15th, 2012 I bought a Nokia Lumia 900 on AT&T. Now 2 months and 6 days later, I find out that my still shiny and new hardware is not going to be receiving a major update due to what Microsoft reps have described as "unnecessary" for older hardware.
Does that make me mad? Yes.
Was it the right thing for Microsoft to do? Yes...and no.
I personally felt my chest plunge at the news, disappointed that Microsoft would be starting from scratch once moreI can't help but feel a sense of Déjà vu, as my mind flashes back to February 2010 when, coincidentally, Joe Belfiore took the stage at Mobile World Congress to announce Windows Phone 7 Series. Obviously a lot has changed since then, including the name, but at the time it was a controversial event. Microsoft openly stated none of their once-massive Windows Mobile consumer base would be receiving the new OS as a software update, despite suspicions (which turned out to be true) that Microsoft would be using very similar hardware configurations as high-end devices like the HTC HD2.
Flash forward to yesterday, June 20th, 2012, where Corporate VP Terry Myerson delivered a very similar message: none of their existing Windows Phones would received the full upgrade to Windows Phone 8. The second Myerson ripped off that bandage, there was a distinct moment of silence in the room. I personally felt my chest plunge at the news, disappointed that Microsoft would be starting from scratch once more and enrage a dedicated fanbase all over again. But then Myerson took command again to talk about Windows Phone 7.8, a major-ish software update that will be coming to existing devices around the same time as the other OS.
And I feel like that's the real difference. This time around, Microsoft is at least offering up an explanation of why they need to do this as well as a consolation for existing users. Granted, if they hadn't done the latter their competitors would have had a field day poking holes in Microsoft's reliability and customer support. Still, all of the reasons given by Microsoft including the fact that the shared core wasn't ready until recently, or the justification that this underlying change-up will be the only one required in the next several years, are things that I understand.
But even as I express confidence that Windows Phone 8 will really get it right this time, we've seen this story unfold before.Software is like a car: you can fix it up as much as you like, but at some point it'll be more trouble than it's worth and you'll have to trade up to something new. That's what's happening with Microsoft's move from Windows CE to the new Windows common code. The former has been around for more than a decade, while the latter is a modern, powerful foundation. Not only that, but Microsoft also said that this new common code has been experimentally tested for support on supercomputers with 64 processor cores so it's evident they're planning more long-term than it may appear.
But even as I express confidence that Windows Phone 8 will really get it right this time, we've seen this story unfold before. In mid-2010 I felt confident that Windows Phone 7 would take the world by storm and become a titan to rival against iOS and Android. In terms of mind share that could be true, but the reality of the situation is that Windows Phone remains at a paltry 2% market share in the United States nearly two years later. A change was needed, but it's up in the air whether this is the best way to do it.
So, as of right now I can't tell whether this was the right thing to do, or a worrying case of Déjà vu. We'll know the answer to that sooner than later, but Microsoft is going to have to win me and some millions of supporters all over again. And this time around, they're going to have to prove to me they can muster up more than single-digit market share after two years.