Feature

Opinion: Why doesn't Microsoft want to talk about Windows Phone 7.8?

Opinion: Why doesn't Microsoft want to talk about Windows Phone 7.8?
It's easy to forget now with Windows Phone 8 reportedly selling at five times the rate of its predecessor, but Microsoft's decision to break away from Windows Phone 7 was a difficult one.

For consumers, manufacturers and developers alike, it meant a platform many were only just getting to grips with – that had, in truth, struggled to gain any momentum whatsoever – was essentially being cast adrift just two years post launch.

The side effect of Microsoft forming closer ties between Windows Phone 8 and the then forthcoming Windows 8 meant that Windows Phone 7 – built around different code entirely – would be given a death sentence.

Trapped in the past

Or so it initially seemed.

Coupled with the unveiling of Windows Phone 8 was Windows Phone 7.8 – one final upgrade that would, superficially at least, give owners of existing handsets a chance to sample the WP8 experience.

In reality, the update won't actually change all too much.

WP8 apps and games still won't run on Windows Phone 7.8, and the prospect of new handsets running the OS is slim, but it is at least a way of ensuring that loyal consumers don't feel entirely short-changed.

What's more, the update should allow OEMs like Nokia to re-pitch existing devices such the Lumia 800 as 'budget' handsets aimed at the low-end of the market, all while still targeting the high-end with its new Windows Phone 8 devices.


A mock up of a Lumia 800 running Windows Phone 7.8

Yet, as I sit here now, Windows Phone 7.8 hasn't materialised. My own Lumia 800 remains trapped, tied to an OS fast being abandoned.

Doing damage

Windows Phone 7.8 had initially been expected to hit before the end of 2012, and while rumours – and indeed Nokia – suggest a January launch is likely, there's been no official word.

When we contacted Microsoft on both sides of the Atlantic, the firm's US base told us it wasn't willing to comment. Microsoft's Russian arm has also suggested that not all devices will benefits from the update - manufacturers can, if they want, opt out.

Such a stance is puzzling, if only because Microsoft was very keen to foster a buzz around Windows Phone 7.8 when it was announced. Now, however, the company is seemingly trying to play down its launch as its supposed debut nears.

Could this be because Microsoft and its partners are worried that, if unknowing consumers see WP7 devices that, on the surface, look identical to their more expensive WP8 cousins, they'll buy them instead? Perhaps.

For developers who jumped aboard WP7 in its first fruitless years, however, no news on Windows Phone 7.8's launch is most definitely not good news.

To be frank, they deserve better, and Microsoft risks earning itself a reputation for being untrustworthy if it doesn't ensure studios still relying on its initial smartphone OS aren't supported.

Windows Phone 8 may now be taking off, but damage could still be done to the OS if Microsoft doesn't support the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem – and all those invested in it – for as long as it can.

Editor

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. As PocketGamer.biz editor, he has the pleasure of monitoring the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.

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Casey Son
Microsoft has absolutely no concern for its first customers at all. They simply want to take care of windows phone 8 in the hopes it will get them more money....which makes sense for a business but destroys their image for once loyal customers who defended windows phone against apple and android fanboys....
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