Why Windows Phone 8's Upgrade Restrictions Are Necessary

Not a single smartphone out right now will be able to upgrade to Windows Phone 8. If you're a recent customer, you might be frustrated. Rightfully so. But if you care about the dazzling future of Windows Phone, you should learn to accept it.

What Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone 8 is what it has to do: laying cement for an OS that will last deep into the future — or at least as long as you'll own your phone. Your Lumia is based on Windows CE, software that was first released during the Clinton administration. It's ancient, and it's holding the entire platform back. Windows Phone 8, and its incompatibility with the phone you might own right now, is a much-needed fresh start.

More than that, it's a fundamental shift, uprooting everything; Microsoft's packing up the house, putting it on the back of a truck, and moving it out of the dead-end suburban cul-de-sac and onto a gorgeous country estate. Windows Phone 8 will now share common code with the impending desktop and tablet versions of Windows 8. If this sounds complicated, it shouldn't: by next year, every new Windows computer, slate and phone will have the same modern software DNA, which will give Microsoft-friendly handsets access to the best programming magic available.

This software sea change is coupled with a hardware triumph: multi-core processors (up to a staggering potential 64 cores), 720p hi-res screens to show off Windows Phone's design crown, NFC for the wireless economy of the future and other future-resistant treats. And it has to because Microsoft screwed this up pretty grandly out of the gates: Windows Phone devices have always been underpowered compared to their iOS and Android peers because of Microsoft's iron grip. Strictly dictated specs kept the platform out of the horrible hell swamp of Android fragmentation, but they stymied the hardware; even the shining prince Lumia 900 is out of date on the inside. You getting "screwed" is how that gets fixed.

And there's simply no way to do it without drawing a line in the silicon. From this point forward, things will be great. A radical cutoff mark means no dizzying fragmentation, but rather a clean break from WP's past and a running start into what's fast, bright and next. This can only happen with some violence — the next wave simply requires more horsepower than anything out now. Support for old phones would cripple the new ones. Your Lumia would only hold back progress. Sorry. No hard feelings.

You can wax cranky over the fact that the phone you bought won't be swept up in the Windows 8 euphoria, but it's hard to justify the saltiness. By the time Windows Phone 8 and accompanying handsets are actually available, you'll probably be approaching upgrade eligibility. If you're not, it'll be worth the wait — and you'll be in good company with the legions of iPhone users screwed out of the latest, far less monumental software releases. This is just nature. And besides, current WP groupies will still get the 7.8 update with most of the best software stuff from Windows Phone 8 — most of all, that redesigned start screen — that's more of a compromise than most iPhone owners ever get. Likewise, Windows Phone 8 handsets are getting an 18-month pledge of firmware support. That simply doesn't exist with Apple or Android.

But all that's almost beside the point — that point being that Microsoft had to do this. You can pout about being excluded, you can claim you're being screwed, you can protest over being ripped off, but if you want Windows Phone to continue to not only exist but have a chance to flourish and dominate, you'll take this as the smart move of a recently genius company trying to save itself and sell you terrific things.


Comments

    Hear hear! Although I don't get the comparisons to Apple and iOS. iPhones don't usually miss out on updates this quickly.

    Great post. Unfortunately some people want to have their cake and eat it too.

    Who cares? They still sold you a device they knew was a stopgap. It's not the consumer's fault it took 2 attempts to get it right.

    Signed someone who bought a WinPhone7 device as a development device who thought it'd last a little longer than it did.

      Sure but that is always going to be the way of things, with technology moving so fast. Only a fool would buy something on the basis of what might be available for it in the future, so as long as you are happy with it when you buy it, I don't see a problem. After all, I've probably owned close to a dozen mobiles over the past 15 years or so and it is only the last two, both Windows phones, that have had any upgrades at all during the time I've owned them. Unlike computers, it is the furthest thing from my mind when I am looking at phones.

    Who cares? They still sold you a device they knew was a stopgap. It's not the consumer's fault it took 2 attempts to get it right.

    Signed someone who bought a WinPhone7 device as a development device who thought it'd last a little longer than it did.

    Windows Marketplace just reached 100000 winphone7 apps. Will they work on Win8?

      Yes. WP7 apps will still work with WP8 devices so that issue is a nonstarter right from the beginning.

      Of course! Now when your favourite apps launch Windows Phone 8 apps however? Your Windows Phone 7.8 device will never see them.

        So what? Are you telling me that within the 100,000 apps available now there are things you can't get that you really need? I'd be very surprised if you even knew more than a tiny fraction of what was available anyway. Imagine how great it would be if there were 100,000 accessories you could buy for your bicycle or even for your car. I also wonder how many software applications are available for Windows or OS X? It would surprise me if it was anywhere near 6 figures for OS X but that doesn't stop anyone buying a Mac.

    Hear hear! Damn this was well written. Sam absolutely hit the nail on the head here.

      I don't think so. There were similar justifications when Windows phone 7 and then 7.5 came out. All promising wonderful new futures, while justifying why older phones wouldn't be supported. This is what keeps many people, including me, away from Windows phones:
      The knowledge that MS has zero loyalty to their customers (for phones) and feels no obligation towards them since they're so big and phones take up so little of their business they feel they don't need to care- which ensures phones will never be a bigger part of their business.

        I don't understand what you're saying in that first paragraph. Every windows phone was upgradeable to 7.5.

          HTC HD2 wasn't upgradeable :P, its stuck on 6.5

        Got news for ya buddy. Noone has loyalty to customers. When Apple does something 'loyal' to customers, it's doing it because it will help their profits.

        It's nothing evil. It's just business. Get over it.

    Enough with the Android "fragmentation" bullshit. Seriously, if you want to go down that childish, idiotic route then realise that nothing can be as irretrievably "fragmented" than Windows phones, since every single model is always left running its very own version of Windows and then forever abandoned by Microsoft when the new model comes out, as these new Windows 8 phones undoubtedly will be.
    At least some effort is put into supporting older Android phones generally.

    So enough with this sophomoric analysis using Android "fragmentation"

      Sorry pal but the 7.8 upgrade will ensure WP7 users are not left behind at all. How many upgrades has Gingerbread had since ICS was released?

        Nope it's not even close. different kernel , uncompilable apps.
        I'd never put it past Microsoft to completely destroy the update system.

        Andorid users have been able to Upgrade from 2.1 to 2.2 to 2.3. If this was Microsoft Windows Phone That would be 7 , 8 ,9!
        EG andorid users from 2009 have had 3 major OS updates like iOS 3,4 5. Windows phone userss? only 7, 7.5, and 7.8 Not even major. Jerks

    I have an htc Mozart, and I'm fine with them not supporting current wp's with wp8. It makes sense. A lot of the upgrades seem based on new hardware, so how are they supposed to bring these new features to even the lumia 900? I don't see much point in upgrading phones either. Unlike most android phones and iPhones after a few years, my phone doesn't appear to be slower, and it can handle whatever I want it to. I'll no doubt buy a new phone once some good windows phone 8 phones come out though.

    I understand the above. But after the today's Windows Phone 8 announcement you think Microsoft/Nokia would have figured out some sort of reasonable compensation for those purchasing Windows Phone 7 from today up to the release of Windows 8 Phone to keep people buying the Lumia devices. For example if I wanted to get a Windows Phone 7 today and Microsoft where offering a half price of an outright phone at the release of Windows Phone 8 then I might still consider buying a Lumia. But with no compensation no way. Might as well wait.

      Microsoft doesn't role out the updates for HTC phones, HTC does, and the reason they didn't upgrade it is because they didn't think it'd be worth it. But if you want windows phone 7.5 OR android on your htc hd2, hit up xda developers, its how i sorted mine :D

      x2. If you buy a Windows 7 PC from now you get a $15 upgrade to Windows 8.

      What do you get if you buy a Windows Phone 7 in the next few months? A dying ecosystem with no future.

        No, you get an upgrade that adds most of, if not all, the functionality of WP8 and new hardware that works as well as any other platform out there and will keep working for the life of you contract. How long do most sheeple keep their phones? I turn mine over every 18 months or so and I can't see my Lumia 800 being less than excellent for another year. I've skipped upgrades in the past because I haven't seen any benefit in installing them. Seeing WP8 devices won't suddenly make my phone seem like a dog, I'm sure. Its no different to a car - a new model doesn't suddenly make all the current models break down, they continue to work exactly like they are supposed to and even after 10 or 15 years they can still do what they were designed for. It will take some pretty compelling design or a phone with 100Gb of storage to get me thinking about an upgrade. I can see myself being happy with the Lumia 800 for a long time yet.

          You are a blind fanboy. Like I've said, when devs start making WP8/WRT apps, you will never see them on your 7.8 device.

          I have found my Lumia missing some pretty well used features to me that it will now never see because WP8 is dead. Oh and I'm sure we'll get updates in a timely manner from Nokia. I'm REALLY enjoying my tethering...

      Lumia phones are already half the price of the competition but once they get a big spec bump, I'd expect them to be just as expensive, so the incentive is there now if you want to look for it. It is something that seems to get lost in all these discussions - Lumia phones are cheap as chips. I got my Lumia 800 outright for less than $400 back in January.

    *stands back and watches prices on the current winpho handsets go through the floor*

      Interestingly, when MS killed of ZuneHD, prices doubled. Used ones are going for the sort of price I paid for my new one two years ago.

        You're crazy, the Lumia will tank in value, it's not a large capacity media player with high end audio components like the Zune, it's an outdated phone that wont get updates.

    gizmodo... can you do an article on WP7.8 to figure out exactly what you get and what you dont

    osborne effect in 3,2,1
    Nokia...what?

    As if the techs @ Microsoft need to be remined of history
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_effect

    So, basically all of us WP7 owners weren't even beta-testers. We were a big focus group that helped MS decide what direction to take the phone part of their 3-screens strategy.
    I understand that doing it this way was just about the only way to get the task done, but WP8 is going to need a stellar response to get past this loss of goodwill.

    For starters, its not like you bought a phone and its not gonna work anymore. Its a great operating system to start with and now with 7.8 its going to be more than good enough to last until the next phone you get. I bought a WP7 and I have no hard feelings toward Microsoft for not wrecking wp8 over some weird loyalty to support wp7 phones for eternity, what everyone always knew was a stopgap before wp8.

      +1, also its not like apple or android support old phones well...

        any phone that ships with ICS will be upgradable to Jelly Bean however...

        Since when in the Lumia 900 an old phone. Only just came out in Australia.

    Um, sorry but isn't this what Microsoft "were doing" with Windows Phone 7 when they canned all legacy hardware support?

    Now again with Windows Phone 8?

    So it should be pretty simple, if you want no upgrade path, Windows Phone is the platform fo r you. If you prefer to gamble an upgrade path, Android. If you want a guaranteed upgrade path iOS.

    Windows Phone 7 really isn't good enough as it stands, it has a lot of promise, and now the promise is that if you're happy to buy two phones in 6 months you'll get all those shiny new features you were hoping for.

      You mean like iOS 6 on iPad 1??

        If that's all you can come back with. Sad. iPad 1 is more than 2 years old. Lumia 900 is still being sold and will be until WP8 release and was only just release in OZ. And for the millionth time apps written in iOS6 will work on iPad 1 except where the app uses an API for hardware that is not on the device (e.g. Camera - which isn't on the iPad 1). Not the case for WP8.

      What? What feature would WP8 give you that WP7.8 won't? Support for hardware you don't have? What good will that do you? 7.8 will give you all the software upgrades from WP8, as far as I can tell, so you won't miss out on anything.

        Apps can be written for WP7.8 and 8, or WP8 and RT. RT is a far bigger market than 7.

    Oh and Microsoft. You'd better be introducing a backup and restore feature. If I'm going to lose everything when it comes time to upgrade, I might as well switch to iOS where I'll definitely get the next major OS update.

    If Apple said those people using anything older than the upcoming iPhone would not receive iOS6 and that apps written for iO6 could not be used in iOS5 all the Windows Phone Fans would be on here talking about how Apple is screwing its users. Agreed Windows Phone 8 is impressive and a move in the right direction but offer those users whom just got their WP7 phones and those purchasing before the release of WP8 some sort of compensation or reduced upgrade cost to stop people who can't wait for WP8 from going to iOS or Android.

    Does your phone still make phone calls? Does your phone still read emails? Does your phone still keep track of calendar items? Does your phone still allow for browsing of the web? If you said 'yes' to all of these questions then you can't really claim that your phone has not 'lasted'. It will go on 'lasting' until it fails to accomplish these tasks..

    You cant hold back progress just because of your desire to always own the shiniest, latest and greatest gadget...

    I should of done my research bought a lumia 900 thinking the update path different to what it is.
    Let's face it lumia is incomplete there are features missing and now they are moving on to wp8.
    They might want to get it right before they start something else.
    Nokia would of been working on the design for wp8 when the lumia 900 was in prototype but yet choose to place this product into production. They choose to release it I choose to buy something else next time. Not Nokia Not Microsoft.
    Kindest regards
    Rod Darmody

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