Microsoft released an update for Windows Phone that fixes a number of issues. That is great, but it comes with some news that has upset many Windows Phone users. Microsoft is abandoning its efforts to keep users informed of which vendors and carriers are providing the update.
A post on the Windows Phone Blog explains, “This week we started to make a new Windows Phone update —8107—available to many Windows Phone customers. The update, available to all carriers that request it, is part of our ongoing maintenance of Windows Phone.”
The latest update includes a couple of security fixes. The Me feature in the People Hub will only send information Wi-Fi access points and cell towers in close proximity if you allow the Check In function to access location data. The update also revokes a number of digital certificates to address an encryption issue.
On the email side, this update resolves a problem with syncing Google Gmail. It also fixes a problem with Exchange Server 2003 so that when you reply to or forward an email message, the original message is included in your email.
There are a couple other tweaks as well, but the thing that has been getting the most attention is the changes in disclosure about the updates. The reality, though, is that nothing has actually changed in how the updates are distributed.
Like Android, Windows Phone updates have to clear some hurdles with smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers before they get the green light to be applied to specific Windows Phone models. I have confirmed with a Microsoft spokesperson that the update process itself works exactly as it always has - there is simply less transparency now to help users understand when they might actually get it.
Microsoft has done an impressive job of developing a capable mobile platform that is distinctly original. Unfortunately, when it launched it borrowed many of the wrong things from iOS, and as it matures it seems to be stealing a page from Android on “how not to update smartphones and minimize fragmentation.”
Sadly, it seems to come with the territory to some extent. iOS only runs on a handful of devices, and Apple designed and controls the engineering of that hardware, so it is easier for Apple to maintain consistency with iOS. With the hardware diversity of Windows Phone and Android comes a more complex ecosystem that requires a different approach to updates.
That said, the Windows operating system runs on an almost endless selection of hardware variations, and it doesn’t seem to have the same problem. When Microsoft develops an update for Windows, users can just download and install it without having to wait for approval from their PC vendor, or a blessing from their broadband provider.
Why can’t Microsoft (and Android) implement a similar system for mobile device updates?