Tag Archives: windows phone

Windows Phone 8 launches: is it enough?

Microsoft has launched Windows Phone 8 at a press event in San Francisco, streamed around the world. Joe Belfiore presented the new features in his usual enthusiastic style (complete with kids on stage to show Kids Corner), and the phone was endorsed by CEO Steve Ballmer and celebrity Jessica Alba.


Key new features:

  • Built on Windows 8 kernel rather than Windows CE
  • Data Sense is for optimizing (ie reducing) mobile data usage and offers visibility about which apps are using data and how much, as well as a data compression feature that enables up to 45% more web browsing for the same amount of data transfer. The compression feature requires operator support and some details are not yet clear.
  • People hub has “Rooms” which let you group contacts, a feature that seems close to what Google+ offers with circles, though Microsoft also has a limited sharing feature that lets trusted contacts see a Room schedule on an iPhone.
  • New Skype app which runs in the background in an efficient manner – you wonder how popular this will be with operators
  • Kids Corner lets you create a kind of secondary login for children, with apps, games and music that you select. Your normal Start screen is protected by a password, so no embarrassing calls or tweets.


  • Apps can now display content on the lock screen and integrate into hubs and with Windows Phone Wallet.
  • More apps are coming, and Belfiore told us that 46 of the 50 most popular apps across all platforms are available for Windows Phone 8. Pandora, Urbanspoon and Temple Run got a mention.
  • There is an iTunes import feature which will copy unprotected music from iTunes to SkyDrive for use on the phone and with Xbox Music.
  • 7GB SkyDrive cloud storage comes for free.
  • OneNote has a new voice transcription feature.
  • Now support for 50 languages, with apps in 191 countries

This was not an event for developers, though we did learn that the SDK will be made available to everyone from tomorrow 30th October.

Phones themselves will be available from this weekend in Europe and from November 14th in the USA.

I got a quick look at the HTX 8x, and was struck by how slim it is, with a 720X1280 4.3″ screen.


It is curved at the back and has a quality feel, though I am not sure HTC quite matches Nokia for hardware design.


I like Windows Phone and there are some tempting new features here. Will this improve Microsoft’s market share and Nokia’s fortunes? This may sound like ducking this issue, but I do not think the fortunes of Windows Phone depend on its features or even the quality of the phones. It is all about operator and retail partnerships, and what customers get told when they walk in to buy a phone and a contract. Windows Phone launched to near-invisibility on the high street. Matters have improved a little since then, especially after Nokia came out with the Lumia (Ballmer said that Nokia sells more Windows Phones than any other vendor), but Microsoft’s phone was still an also-ran after iOS and Android. How does Microsoft get into those in-store conversations, yet alone win them?

I also think Windows 8 is a factor here. If devices like Surface RT are popular, then Live Tiles and other elements of Windows Phone 8 will become familiar. On the other hand if Windows 8 users rush to install substitute Start menus and ignore the new app platform, not much will have been achieved.

Nokia and Windows Phone 8: more questions than answers

Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop announced the Lumia 820 and 920 yesterday in New York; new versions of its high-end Windows smartphones and the first to run the forthcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system. Windows Phone 8 runs the same kernel as Windows 8 on PCs and is a significant step towards unification of Microsoft’s development platform.


Among the key features announced yesterday:

Wireless charging with the Qi standard and a couple of deals to place charging points in public places. The London Heathrow Virgin Atlantic lounge and the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain will have charging points; not much, but a start. Wireless charging accessories include the JBL PowerUP which combines wireless charging and an audio dock.

PureView imaging technology. This is Nokia’s brand name for a bunch of photo features. Most significant is “floating lens technology” on the larger 920 which, Nokia claims, overcomes camera shake to enable the camera to take in “five times more light”; think of it as a virtual tripod that allows longer exposure without motion blur. If it works it is a huge feature for photo enthusiasts.

City Lens augmented reality which overlays the view through the phone’s camera with data about what to do and where to go; apparently there is data for indoor as well as outdoor locations.


Synaptics ClearPad touch which enables gloved finger support. Since Synaptics is a third-party I guess this feature is unlikely to be exclusive to Nokia for long.

Windows Phone 8 operating system shown off by Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, including more customizable Live Tiles and a “Blink” feature from Microsoft Research which takes multiple shots in quick succession to enable interesting features like avoiding closed eyes and allowing after-the-event editing using alternate shots.

Screenshots are now a built-in feature. Who cares? Journalists of course; non-availability of this trivial feature meant fewer screenshots of Windows Phone 7 on the web.

Lumia 920 has a 4.5 inch screen, 1.5Ghz dual core Snapdragon S4, front and rear cameras, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage.

Lumia 820 has a 4.3 inch screen,  1.5 Ghz dual core Snapdragon S4, front and rear cameras, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, microSD slot.

The big disappointment yesterday: no announcement concerning price or availability. Here is what the press release says:

Both phones will be available in pentaband LTE and HSPA+ variants and are expected to start shipping in select markets later in the year. Nokia will announce pricing and specific roll-out dates country by country when sales are due to begin.

Worries about a delay were not relieved by Microsoft’s announcement that the Windows Phone SDK preview will be available to select developers from September 12. “Next Wednesday I’ll share detailed instructions on how current Windows Phone developers with published apps can apply. But I do want to set your expectations that program access will be limited,” says Microsoft’s Todd Bix. He adds that, “The full Windows Phone 8 SDK will be made publically available later this year when we unveil Windows Phone 8.”

That suggests a considerable wait before availability. Even if the Lumias go on sale the same day that the SDK is final, it sounds like November at best; and that gives developers no time at all to work with the new SDK before launch. Key developers have early access of course.


Overall the event was less than it should have been, at a time when Android looks vulnerable thanks to Apple’s patent win over Samsung last month.

In some ways though, Nokia’s announcements have little to do with the key questions over Nokia’s Lumia range and Windows Phone 8. Quality is one issue; the launch of the Lumia 800 was damaged by the device’s poor battery life and tendency to sulk and become unchargeable; the rumour is that return rates were unusually high. The knock-on effect is to make it hard for retailers to recommend it to their customers, though firmware updates eventually improved matters. How is battery life on the 820 and 920? What has been done to address quality issues?

Another question, and to me the biggest one, is how Windows 8 for PCs will fare in the market and the impact it will have on Windows Phone. The more time I spend with Windows 8 the more I like it, especially on a tablet, but also on the desktop. There is a barrier to adoption though as the new user interface is a demanding transition for some users. If Windows 8 tablets succeed, there will be instant recognition for the phone user interface and users will have a reason to demand it over iPhone or Android, something that has been lacking up to now.

On the other hand, if appreciation for the nice features of Windows 8 is drowned out by a chorus of “give us back the Start menu”, while vendors focus on expensive fiddly hybrids rather than simple, lightweight tablets, then I doubt Windows Phone 8 will take off either.

Currently I use a Lumia as my main smartphone and (battery life aside) get on well with it. Nokia’s experience with the operating system should mean that this new generation is better, and the phones look good. As Elop himself said though, this is all about ecosystems, and the viability of his third ecosystem is still in the balance.

Common sense on non-upgradeable Windows 7 Phones

Poor old Microsoft. It announces a strong set of features for the next generation of Windows Phones, which I have covered in some detail here, including the news that it will be built on the full Windows 8 kernel, not the cut-down Windows CE as before. So how do people react? Not so much with acclaim for these features, but rather with shock and disappointment at the dreadful news: existing Windows Phone 7.x handsets cannot be upgraded to Windows Phone 8. This must be the end of Nokia, the argument goes, as sales will now stop dead until the new one is on sale.


Of course it would be better if Microsoft had managed to stay compatible with current hardware, but I think the fuss is overdone. Here is why.

  • First, we have seen this coming. It has been known for ages that Windows Phone would move from Windows CE to Windows 8. I first posted about it in March 2011 and it was fully confirmed about in February this year.
  • Second, it was never likely that Windows Phone 8 would run on Windows Phone 7 hardware. Perhaps it could be made to run, but of course you would not get multi-core, and it would probably not run well. A change of operating system is hard to accommodate.
  • Third, upgradability of smartphones is always an uncertain business. Operators do not like firmware upgrades, since it only causes them hassle. Some users like them, but mostly the vocal minority of tech enthusiasts, rather than the less vocal majority who simply want their phones to keep on working.
  • Fourth, Microsoft is in fact upgrading Windows Phone 7.x devices, with the most visible aspect of the upgrade, the new start screen. It is not ideal, but it is substantial; and there will be other new features in Windows Phone 7.8.

I doubt therefore that Windows Phone 7 sales will stop dead because of this.

Microsoft’s bigger problem, of course, is that the thing is not selling that well anyway. At this stage, it makes sense for the company to go all-out with the best possible features in Windows Phone 8, rather than compromising for the sake of the relatively small number of 7.x owners.

Another question: is Nokia damaged by this? My view is simple. Nokia, for better or worse, has tied its fortunes closely to those of Microsoft. In other words, what is good for Microsoft is good for Nokia. Nokia is the number one hardware partner for Windows Phone, and the prototype shown at the Windows Summit yesterday was a Nokia device. If Windows Phone 8 is a winner, Nokia wins too.

Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8: nearly converged

Microsoft has shared details of the forthcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system, which is set to be available on devices before the end of 2012.

The improvements are fundamental, and it seems that Microsoft has finally created a mobile platform that has what it takes, technically, to compete in the modern smartphone market. Winning share from competitors is another thing of course; Nokia’s hoped-for third ecosystem is still tiny relative to Apple iOS or Google Android.

It starts with a change in the core operating system, from Windows CE to Windows 8. The two now share the same kernel, and APIs including Graphics, Audio, Media, File System, Networking, Input, Commerce, Base Types and Sensors. The .NET Framework is also the same. The browser will be Internet Explorer 10.


Silverlight was not mentioned, nor was XNA, though we were told that Windows Phone 7.x apps will run on Windows Phone 8.

The change does enable multi-core support at last. Screen resolution can now go up to 1280 x 768, ready for high-definition displays. There is also support for MicroSD storage, a feature which should have been in the first release.

What about Windows RT, the runtime for Metro-style apps in Windows 8? Here is the significant slide from yesterday’s presentation:


This looks similar to Windows RT, which also supports three development models: XAML and .NET, native C/C++ code, and HTML5. It is not quite the same though. One thing I did not hear mentioned was contracts, the communication and file sharing system built into Windows 8, though we were promised “sharing under user control”. Nor did we hear about language “projections”, the layer that lets different languages in Windows 8 call the same Windows Runtime APIs. My guess at the moment is that Windows Phone 8 does not include the Windows Runtime, though it does have much in common with it. The further guess is that the full Windows Runtime will come in Windows Phone 9.

In other words, it seems that Windows Phone 8 will not run apps coded for Windows 8, though we were told that if you code to the XAML and .NET model for apps, and the native code model for games, few changes will be needed. XNA developers should consider a change of direction.

Support for C/C++ is a key feature and one that in my view should have been in the first Windows Phone release. One of the things it enables is official support for SQLite, the cross-platform database engine also found in Mac OS X and numerous other platforms. A good day for SQLite, which pleases me as I am a fan.

There will also be C/C++ gaming libraries coming to Windows Phone 8, including Havoc:


What else is new? Users will like the new Start screen, which unlike the whole of Windows Phone 8 is also coming to existing devices, which will get a half-way upgrade called Windows Phone 7.8 (7 and 8, geddit?). The innovation in the new Start screen is that any tile can be sized by the user to any of the supported sizes. The smallest size allows four tiles across, so you can make your Windows Phone look more like Android or iOS if you so choose.


What else? Microsoft is not announcing “end-user features” yet, but did promise Nokia offline maps plus turn by turn directions; digital wallet which can be paired with a secure SIM for NFC (near field communications) payment, and deep support for Skype and VOIP so they “feel like any other call”. Apparently operators will love the way the wallet is implemented, because unlike Android it is hooked to the SIM, but I doubt they will be so keen on Skype.

There is an improved speech engine which duly failed to recognise speech input correctly in the first demo, though it worked after that.

Finally, Microsoft is now talking Enterprise for Windows Phone. There will be bitlocker encryption and enterprise app deployment without Windows store, as well as device management. Think full System Center 2012 integration.

Conclusion? There is disappointment that existing Windows Phone 7 devices are not fully upgradeable, but this is hardly surprising given the changed core. As a platform it is greatly improved, though I would like to see full WinRT included. Despite its poor start, you cannot dismiss this mobile OS as Microsoft continues to use its financial muscle to try and try again.

If it succeeds, will it be too late for Nokia? Maybe, though my hunch is that Microsoft will do what it takes to keep its key mobile partner alive.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 convergence: a few more hints from Microsoft

The moment when Nokia is in the midst of the US launch for its Lumia 900 phone, which both Nokia and Microsoft hope will win some market share for Windows Phone 7, is not the best time to talk about Windows Phone 8 from a marketing perspective. Especially when Windows Phone 8 will have a new kernel based on Windows 8 rather than Windows CE, news which was leaked in early February and made almost official by writer Paul Thurrott who has access to advance information under NDA:

Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, will be based on the Windows 8 kernel and not on Windows CE as are current versions. This will not impact app compatibility: Microsoft expects to have over 100,000 Windows Phone 7.5-compatible apps available by the time WP8 launches, and they will all work fine on this new OS.

Nevertheless, Microsoft is talking a little about Windows Phone 8. Yesterday Larry Lieberman posted about the future of the Windows Phone SDK. After echoing Thurrott’s words about compatibility, he added:

We’ve also heard some developers express concern about the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don’t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today’s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well. Note that when targeting a tablet vs. a phone, you do of course, need to design user experiences that are appropriately tailored to each device.

Panic or not, these are not comforting words if you love Silverlight. Lieberman is saying that if you code today in Silverlight, you had better learn to code for WinRT instead in order to target future versions of Windows Phone.

The odd thing here is that while Lieberman says:

today’s Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone.

(in bold so that you do not doubt it), he also says that “much of your code will be transferrable as well”. Which is equivalent to saying “not all your code will be transferrable.” So how is it that “non-transferrable code” nevertheless runs on Windows Phone 8 if already compiled for Window Phone 7? It sounds like some kind of compatibility layer; I would be interested to know more about how this will work.

I was also intrigued by this comment from Silverlight developer Morton Nielsen:

Its really hard to sell this investment to customers with all these rumors floating, and you only willing to say that my skill set is preserved is only fuel onto that. The fact is that there is no good alternative to Silverlight, and its an awesome solution for distribution LOB apps, but the experience on win8 is horrible at best. And it doesn’t help that the blend team is ignoring us with a final v5, and sl5 is so buggy it needs 100% DEET but we don’t see any GDRs any longer.

What are these acronyms? DEET just means insect repellent, ie. bug fixes. GDR is likely “General Distribution Release”; I guess Nielsen is saying that no bug-fix releases are turning up are turning up for Silverlight 5, implying that Microsoft has abandoned it.

All in all, this does not strike me as a particularly reassuring post for Windows Phone developers hoping that their code will continue to be useful, despite Lieberman’s statement that:

I hope we’ve dispelled some of your concerns

Still, it has been obvious for some time that WinRT, not Silverlight, is how Microsoft sees the future of its platform so nobody should be surprised.

Update: Several of you have commented that Lieberman talks about WinRT on Windows 8 not on Windows Phone 8. Nobody has said that WinRT will be on Windows Phone 8, only that the kernel will be the that of Windows 8 rather than Windows CE. That said, Lieberman does specifically refer to “the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone” and goes on to talk about WinRT. The implication is that WinRT is the future direction for Windows Phone as well as for Windows 8 on tablets. Maybe that transition will not occur until Windows Phone 9; maybe Windows Phone as an OS will disappear completely and become a form factor for Windows 8 or Windows 9. This aspect is not clear to me; if you know more, I would love to know.

Will Nokia’s Qt come to Windows Phone?

When Nokia acquired Trolltech back in 2008, it made perfect sense as a way of supporting development on Symbian, its smartphone operating system, and nudging the Qt project, which provides a cross-platform framework for native applications, more towards mobile rather than just desktop application support. It also made sense as Nokia worked on Maemo and then Meego, its Linux for mobile project.

Then came February 2011 and CEO Stephen Elop’s announcement that Nokia would partner with Microsoft and make Windows Phone its primary smartphone operating system. Windows Phone 7 does not support native code development, other than by operators, manufacturers, and of course Microsoft itself. What future for Qt at Nokia now?

Here at Blackberry Devcon Europe, Nokia’s Lars Knoll, Qt Chief Maintainer, has been introducing Qt to Blackberry developers. Qt forms a critical part of RIM’s Blackberry 10 (BBX) platform, based on the PlayBook tablet OS and set to come to Blackberry phones later this year. The Cascades UI framework, for hardware-accelerated 2D and 3D rendering on BBX, uses Qt core and an adaption of QML (Qt Modeling Language). You can use Qt with or without Cascades on BBX.

Lars Knol, Nokia

Given that Nokia makes mobile devices which are in competition with RIM’s devices, it may seem odd that Nokia is supporting Qt on Blackberry. I asked Knoll about the status of Qt within Nokia following the move to Windows Phone.

There’s not too much I can say right now. The only thing I can repeat is that we’re still investing in Qt. We’re actually hiring more people to work on Qt. Qt is an essential part of the strategy for the next billion. That’s all I can say right now, but stay tuned, in time you’ll hear more.

He added later that Nokia is in business to make money; in other words, there are strong business reasons for Nokia to continue with Qt. The “next billion” reference refers to Nokia’s stated intention to bring apps to the next billion.

One possibility is that Qt will in fact support a future version of Windows Phone. It is already clear that Windows Phone 8 will use the same kernel as Windows 8 and we can expect a unified development platform build on the Windows Runtime (WinRT), which does support native code development.

It is not too much of a stretch then to expect a future Qt framework that will target Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablets. Nokia’s Elop has also hinted that it is interested in Windows tablets as well as phones in future.

Windows Phone 8 “Apollo”: Windows 8 kernel, more form factors

Microsoft’s partner ecosystem is vulnerable to leaks, as demonstrated today by reports of a video said to have been made for Nokia, which arrived in the hands of a smartphone review website. The leaked information was corroborated by Windows journalist Paul Thurrott who has received advance information independently from Microsoft, but under non-disclosure:

Thanks to a recent leak which has revealed some interesting information about the next major Windows Phone version, I can now publicly discuss Windows Phone 8 for the first time.

First, a quick recap:

  • Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” came out in the second half of last year and was the launch OS for Nokia’s Lumia phones.
  • Windows Phone “Tango” is expected in the second quarter of 2012 and appears to be a minor update focused on low-end handsets.
  • Windows Phone “Apollo” is the subject of the new leaks. Some of the details:
  • Uses the Windows 8 kernel and other OS components, rather than Windows CE
  • Supports multicore processors
  • Supports more form factors and screen resolutions
  • Preserves compatibility with Windows Phone 7 apps
  • Adds BitLocker encryption

I presume this also means that native code development will be supported, as it is for the Windows Runtime (WinRT) in Windows 8.

Date for “Apollo”? The rumour is towards the end of this year, as a close follow-on from Windows 8 itself.

Like many leaks, this one raises as many questions as it answers. While it makes sense that Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 should share the same kernel, it also raises the question of  how they are differentiated. Windows 8, especially on ARM, is designed for small screens and tablets. Windows Phone 8, we now learn, will support more form factors. The implication is that there may be Windows Phone 8 devices that are close in size to Windows 8 devices. Will they run the same apps from the same Marketplace, at least in some cases, in the same way that some iOS apps support both iPhone and iPad?

The Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 era will be simplified in one sense, with a single core operating system across desktop and devices. In another sense though, it ushers in new complexity, with multiple platforms that have subtle or not so subtle differences:

  • Windows 8 desktop side, on laptop and tablet (x86)
  • Windows 8 desktop side, laptop and tablet (ARM) – rumoured to be locked down for Office and perhaps a few other favoured apps
  • Windows 8 Metro side, desktop, laptop and tablet (x86) which should be nearly the same as
  • Windows 8 Metro side, desktop, laptop and tablet (ARM) – runs WinRT
  • Windows Phone 8 – runs WinRT, plus Silverlight compatibility layer

My guess is that Microsoft will push WinRT as the single platform developers should target, but I can see scope for confusion among both developers and users.

Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Metro Metro Metro feature in Microsoft’s last keynote at CES

I watched Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer give the last in a long series of Microsoft keynotes at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


There were three themes: Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox with Kinect. It was a disappointing keynote though, mainly because of the lack of new news. Most of the Windows Phone presentation could have been from last year, except that we now have Nokia involvement which has resulted in stronger devices and marketing. What we have is in effect a re-launch necessitated by the failure of the initial launch; but the presentation lacked the pizzazz that it needed to convince sceptics to take another look. That said, I have enjoyed using Nokia’s Lumia 800 and still believe the platform has potential; but Microsoft could have made more of this opportunity. A failed voice demo did nothing other than remind us that voice control in Windows Phone is no Apple Siri.


What about Windows 8? Windows Chief Marketing Officer Tami Reller gave a presentation, and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of new stuff since the preview at last year’s BUILD conference. There was not much though, and Reller was using the same Samsung tablet as given to BUILD delegates. We did get a view of the forthcoming Windows Store that I had not seen before:


Reller mainly showed the Metro interface, in line with a general focus on Metro also emphasised by Ballmer. She talked about ARM and said that Metro apps will run on both Intel and ARM editions of Windows 8; notably she did not say the same thing about desktop apps, which implies once again that Microsoft intends to downplay the desktop side in the ARM release.

Reller also emphasised that Windows 8 Metro works well on small screens, as if to remind us that it will inevitably come to Windows Phone in time.

Windows 8 looks like a decent tablet OS, but the obvious questions are why users will want this when they already have iOS and Android, and why Microsoft is changing direction so dramatically in this release of Windows? The CES keynote was a great opportunity to convince the world of the merits of its new strategy, but instead it felt more as if Microsoft was ducking these issues.

Xbox and Kinect followed, and proved firmer ground for the company, partly because these products are already successful. There was a voice control demo for Xbox which worked perfectly, in contrast to the Windows Phone effort. We also heard about Microsoft’s new alliance with News Corporation, which will bring media including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal to the console. We also saw the best demo of the day, a Sesame Street interactive Kinect game played with genuine enthusiasm by an actual child.

Microsoft unveiled Kinect for Windows, to be released on 1st February, except that there was not much to say about it. Amazon.com has the product available for pre-order, and there was more to be learned there.


The new product  retails at $249.99, compared to $149 for the Xbox version, but seems little different. Here is what the description says:

This Kinect Sensor for Windows has a shortened USB cable to ensure reliability across a broad range of computers and includes a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals. The new firmware enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters. “Near Mode” will enable a whole new class of “close up” applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360.

I imagine hackers are already wondering if they can get the new firmware onto the Xbox edition and use that instead. Kinect for Windows does not come with any software.

What is the use of it? That is an open question. Potentially it could be an interesting alternative to a mouse or touch screen, face recognition could be used for personalisation, and maybe there will be some compelling applications. If so, none were shown at CES.

I am not sure of the extent of Microsoft’s ambitions for this first Windows release of Kinect, but at $249 with no software (the Xbox version includes a game) I would think it will be a hard sell, other than to developers. If wonderful apps appear, of course, I will change my mind.

Microsoft puts carriers before users in new Windows Phone update which you might not get

Microsoft has posted a new update for Windows Phone, update 7.10.8107.79. The list of fixes is here, not huge, but including one fix for an issue that has irritated many users:

On-screen keyboard. Fixes an issue to prevent the keyboard from disappearing during typing

But will you get the fix? The real news in Microsoft’s blog post announcing the release is this:

The update, available to all carriers that request it …

Microsoft is also discontinuing its Where’s My Phone update site:


Why? Microsoft General Manager Eric Hautala is blaming growth in the number of model, country and carrier variations. That makes the site more work to keep up to date, but no less useful for users.

So what is going on? When Microsoft ditched Windows Mobile for Windows Phone, it sought to learn a lesson from Apple and to provide consistency in user experience, hardware and software. One important part of that is to control updates, so that users do not have to wait for carriers to authorise updates (or not to bother), but get them in a timely manner. This is a potentially a selling point against Android, where users have difficulty getting updates, especially on older devices.

In March last year, Hautala said:

There’s one more thing I want to clear up. I’ve seen a lot of speculation on blogs and forums lately about whether carriers can “block” an update. We work closely with carriers to test and schedule updates. They may ask us for a specific date to start an update. They may ask for updates to be bundled together. But you should ultimately receive all the updates we send out [emphasis mine].

Microsoft now seems to be back-tracking on this commitment, though we need clarification. It is possible that all devices will eventually get the fixes, though not necessarily in this release but in a future roll-up. Check the comments though: users fear the worst.

For background, I recommend you read my piece from February 2010, before the launch of Windows Phone, where Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Joe Belfiore and Andy Lees discuss the partner problem.

One further thought: if Microsoft is losing control over its partners, this represents an opportunity for specific partners to make the commitments that Microsoft is backing away from. How about it Nokia?

Update: Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore tweets:

ps – on updates, pls don’t overreact, our focus is on users first! As greg said “nothing has changed” in how we work w carriers on updates.

Greg is Greg Sullivan, Senior Product Manager on Windows Phone.

This still strikes me as a worrying development for users though. The disappearing keyboard bug is troublesome. How can a user find out when they will get the fix? “Ask your carrier” is all very well, but many find carriers unresponsive on this kind of issue.

Windows Phone, Exchange, and self-signed certificates

I am setting up a Nokia Lumia phone, which runs Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango”. I am impressed with the smoothness of the setup experience, though I had one slight hassle which I do not blame on Nokia or Microsoft because it is is not typical.

I run an Exchange Server (and SharePoint) for test purposes with a self-signed certificate. On the iPhone and I think Android, you just get a warning the first time you connect and after that it all works. Windows Phone though gives you a certificate error when Outlook tries to connect and will not let you proceed further.

Which of these approaches is right is a moot point: convenience versus security I guess.

Fortunately it is not too hard to get Windows Phone to trust your certificates. Here is what I did:

1. Email the certificate(s) to myself on Google Mail.

2. Go to Google Mail in the phone’s browser. For this to work I found I had to use the Basic HTML view, as the mobile view did not let me download the attachments.

3. Open the email you sent to yourself. Tap the attachment. Windows Phone offers to install the certificate, tap to install.

4. Now go back to Outlook and synchronise, everything works.

You will also need this for SharePoint if you want to use Office on the device.

Of course if your Exchange and SharePoint use a certificate from a trusted certificate provider then these steps are not necessary.