Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially confirmed the timeframe for the series of planned updates to the company's mobile phone platform Windows Phone 7 during his keynote address at this week's Consumer Electronics Shows (CES 2011) in Las Vegas. No, he didn't give an exact launch date for the updates - this is Microsoft, you know - but he did say that the updates will begin in the "next few months."
In addition, blogger Paul Thurrott of Windows Phone Secrets has detailed a number of things about the coming updates, including when they will launch and what they provide.
The Official News
As for the official news, Ballmer said that the first update will bring copy-and-paste functionality and improvements to the phone's performance when loading or switching between applications. He also mentioned that WP7 devices will show up on Sprint and Verizon in the first half of 2011 and more languages will be available later in the year.
Thurott, however, provided more information, albeit unofficial and unconfirmed.
More Details on "NoDo," "Mango" and More
The first update, he says, will RTM (release to manufacturing) in January but won't ship until early February. This update, called "NoDo" (which stands for "No Donuts" and probably refers to the first Android update called "Donut"), includes the copy and paste functionality noted above plus support for the Qualcomm 7×30 smartphone chipset, a CDMA location stack and a number of software fixes.
NoDo will also include improved Marketplace search, says the blog LiveSide, also an unofficial, but well-connected Microsoft-watching site. They noted that after NoDo, a series of intermmediate updates will arrive bringing new APIs (application programming interfaces) with greater multi-tasking support, in-app downloads and better end user customizations. These will likely be announced during Mobile World Congress in February, they say.
Both LiveSide, Thurott and ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley confirmed the existence of an update code-named "Mango" suspected to arrive sometime this fall. Mango is a major update, bringing IE 9 with the Trident 5 rendering engine, HTML5 and Silverlight support, gesture support and Far East Asian language support. Thurott says that internally, this code branch is dubbed the "entertainment" branch, which suggests more functionality yet to be unveiled.
It may or may not be referred to as Windows Phone OS 7.5. Foley guesses it may also offer more enterprise functionality, liked improved Exchange ActiveSync support.
?In any event, expect some of this news to become more official in February, when Mobile World Congress starts (Feb 14-17).
In the meantime, courtesy of LiveSide, is a chart detailing the update schedule:
Debating the Merits of Treating Updates Like Service Packs
Thurott mentions that, due to Microsoft's requirement that carriers stay only one step behind in terms of updates, Microsoft won't be shipping fixes for individual issues but will instead handle updates more like it does service packs for Windows PCs. He thinks that's a poor choice on the software giant's part because Microsoft has "plenty to fix" in Widows Phone 7.
But that's sort of a "darned if you do, darned if you don't" situation, isn't it? If Microsoft went the way of Google, as it did with Android, it could leave in its wake a fragmented ecosystem of woefully un-updated devices. That would not be a good thing for such a new (and still buggy) platform, especially considering the speed with which manufacturers like to push updates...or rather, the lack of speed. (Our Samsung Galaxy S is still waiting for Froyo even though Google has already released Gingerbread, for example!).
Forcing the carriers to stay only one step behind is great for consumers - in some ways - but it also means the speed of updates has to be dialed down a bit. This may have even been a point of contention, and eventually compromise, between Microsoft and carriers for all we know.