What is Microsoft Thinking?

Microsoft, the underdog in the mobile space took radical steps to combat the iPhone and Android, to come back and become a relevant player in the market once again. The entire Windows Mobile line, scrapped and done away with. The old bath water drained out so a fresh new start could be made to truly tackle the mobile needs of consumers with a new mobile OS in Windows Phone 7. While a drastic move, it was widely praised as the right decision, even if it did burn bridges with consumers and business professionals who's work was built around applications that wouldn't run on WP7. Now Microsoft is going to do it all over again. With every single customer who's bought into the Windows Phone 7 system if the rumors are to be believed.

All I can say for Microsoft is that this is bad for business. The fact that this rumor, contradictions to it and general confusion have swirled around the web for as long as they have without being cleared up by Microsoft is not a good thing. Basically the gist of the rumors are that no current Windows Phone 7 device will be up-gradable to Windows Phone 8, not even the Nokia Lumia 800 or 900 that have just been released and are the first Windows Phones to see real widespread adoption. The rumor is that because the Windows Phone 8 platform will be based directly off the code from Windows 8, the underlying kernel is changing completely and will not be able to be upgraded from what is currently running on all Windows phones. I have three words for Microsoft.

Find a way.

Find a way, make it happen and show consumers that they weren't wrong to buy into your platform and ecosystem. Because, had I just bought a Lumia 900 and then come October, my phone doesn't make the cut for Windows Phone 8, I'd be livid as I watch all my friends who have an iPhone4S go from iOS 5 to iOS 6, and my friends who have a Galaxy Nexus go from Android 4.0 to 5.0. This wasn't supposed to happen. This is why Microsoft took control with Windows Phone 7, locked down the specifications, limited what the manufacturers and the carriers could do to change the devices, so a unified software platform could be created and the consumers and developers would benefit from a stable, consistent experience from device to device. I don't care if Microsoft makes the upgrade limited to Windows Phone Devices that shipped initially with Mango, or what is known and Windows Phone 7.5, I can understand leaving the very first Windows Phones behind, as those customers will be coming up on their 2-year contract renewals soon anyway, but to leave out someone who bought a brand new phone at launch 6 months ago. Unacceptable.

As Microsoft moves to fully embrace the Metro interface, the style that was birthed with Windows Phone, they are obviously going to have some growing pains, but I must admit, upgrading the phone was not one I was expecting. Even if a total wipe of the device is the only way, with no way to back up the user's data, other than what is sync'd to the cloud, that would be an acceptable compromise. Those who wanted to take the plunge could, and those happy where they were could stay on Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft is still the underdog in the mobile space, but stories and situations like this aren't going to win them any friends in consumers around the globe. I understand what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows Phone 8 and unifying the code with Windows 8 from the desktop, but then this also raises questions about Windows RT, or Windows ARM, what happens if there's a radical code change with Windows 9? Is my Windows 8 ARM tablet stuck on Windows 8 forever, or does an upgrade path exist? I understand that Windows doesn't get upgraded on the same timetable as iOS or Android, but Microsoft is going to have to update them quickly to stay competitive with Apple and Google, to me this means that the service packs for Windows 8 are more likely to be Feature Change Packs, or they better be if Microsoft wants to keep up. Hopefully if nothing else, with Windows Phone 8 Microsoft will take the control of updates away from the carriers and add a Windows Update app to the phone to allow users to update the phones directly over the air.

All in all, this is speculation on rumor that so far hasn't been confirmed. These things do have a way of panning out though, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is true, or was true until the negative press started. Hopefully Microsoft can find a way out of this situation to keep the loyalty of the those who have given the Lumia series and Windows Phone a chance.

Image credit: WPCentral