Windows Phone update schedule: one major version a year

Windows Phone 7 logoPreviously expected, but never before confirmed, Microsoft's plans for Windows Phone updates have been spelled out explicitly in a job posting, of all things. First noticed by MobileTechWorld, the job spec outlines the update policy for the platformone major update a year, and some unspecified number of minor updates. The position in question, a Program Manager role, will be driving the development of these minor updates.

With Windows Phone "Mango" due in fall, about a year after the release of the platform, this confirmation is not in and of itself hugely surprising. What is a little more surprising is the way we learned about the policy. Though the company explicitly says that regular updates are a "key part" of its plans for the platform, it has always stopped short of explaining just what it means by "regular." In the first eight months on the market, Windows Phone has been updated three times, but only one of those updatesthe "NoDo" copy-and-paste updateactually provided any features to end-users. The other updates were "pre-NoDo," that enabled updating to NoDo, and a post-NoDo subsequent security fix.

This job posting confirms that the pattern for the first year is going to be replicated in future yearsthough hopefully without the same teething trouble that caused so many headaches for the NoDo and pre-NoDo updates.

Windows Phone trails iOS and Android in a number of key functional areas; more regular updating, to fill functional deficits and get the improvements into users' hands, would seem an obvious strategy. So is one major update a year enough? It certainly can be: iOS has a similar schedule of one major release every 12 months. However, there's a difference: iOS adds to these a substantial number of minor updatesboth more plentiful than the number Windows Phone has received so far, and more useful. Without these frequent minor updates, a strategy closer to that of Android, which has a new significant release roughly every six to nine months (alongside regular bug-fixing updates) might be a better option.

If Microsoft is to make a success of this update policy, the minor updates need to improve. Though Mango will indeed be a substantial upgradeeasily the same magnitude of an iOS major updatethe minor updates have, so far, been more than a little disappointing; Microsoft hasn't matched the steady trickle of new features that iOS boasts, meaning that the functional gap between platforms has only widened over Windows Phone's lifetime. It's plainly an area that needs improvementand the person who eventually fills the advertised position may be responsible for providing that improvement.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Microsoft, Windows Phone 7

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