Editorial: Be grateful you are getting Windows Phone 7.8
June 26, 2012 at 23:39 GMT | By Darlington Moyo
When Terry Myerson announced Windows Phone 8 at the Developer Summit in San Francisco last week, doom mongers had pen and paper within reach, ready to let their slimy fingers start feeding malicious rumours to their sheeple. Disregarding the fact that Microsoft was finally bringing features that would put Windows Phone at par with Google's Android and Apple's iOS, most seemed to be more concerned about whether current Windows Phone devices would be receiving the Windows Phone 8 update or not. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting CNET, Engadget, Slashdot and the likes to suddenly start being fair to Microsoft after all the years of brown-nosing Google and Apple. What caught me by surprise was when supposedly pro-Windows Phone blogs like WMPoweruser started feeding poison to Windows Phone users.
Apparently, Windows Phone 7.8 is going to be nothing but a skin change on 7.5. Im yet to hear a Microsoft employee or representative confirm that. If anything, Im pretty sure Terry Myerson said Windows Phone 7.8 would be "bringing the WP8 start screen AND MORE" to current devices. Don't just take my word for it, go and watch the presentation - all 2hrs of it - and tell me I'm wrong. In any case, most of the new features in WP8 are hardware reliant. Features such as Native Code, Internet Explorer 10, The Wallet, NFC (Near Field Communication), WinRT, Device encryption and VPN all need capable hardware, leaving the Data Usage application and Skype integration as the only other announced features that can be brought to WP7.8
Much has been made of how Microsoft is "stitching up" loyal early adopters like they did when they abandoned Windows Mobile 6.x devices like the HTC HD2. Let me tell you something for nothing, I had a 6 month old Samsung Omnia 2 when Windows Phone 7 hit the stores on the 21st of October in 2010 (yes I still remember the day!). Without slight doubt, I went along and purchased my first Windows Phone, the Omnia 7. That is what a Poweruser and loyal fanboy does instead of whingeing and dithering about. Yes I was disappointed that my feature rich Omnia 2 was more or less obsolete, but I understood why Microsoft had to leave Windows Mobile behind. Now let's talk about Windows Phone 7.8, why it won't receive the full Windows Phone 8 update and why you should be thankful that Microsoft is offering a middle-of-the-road update.
It has to do with the Windows Phone 8's hardware specifications, something current phones currently can't meet. New hardware support includes new chipsets, graphic processors and more. This better, faster hardware will enable new, faster games and other demanding apps which, for the first time, can be written in native code. WP8 might just as well run on WP7 devices as the WP8 core will most likely to run on low spec hardware, but that would mean you'll have to wipe the phone clean to put WP8 onto it (what happens to your data then?). Not to mention that OEM's would have to rewrite hardware drivers - which I'm sure they would be happy to do. Really? As mentioned and discussed in many websites, Microsoft only went with the CE kernel because it allowed them to deliver a stable WP7 in a timely fashion but it was always going to be a temporary fix. The move to the NT kernel is necessary for obvious reasons.
If it doesn't make money, it doesn't makes sense
Updating all current devices would have cost OEMs and carriers a pretty penny. I mean, it wouldn't have left a dent on their deep pockets but its not money they want to spend in any case. OEM's would have had to write new hardware drivers for the few million WP7 devices and carriers would miss out as WP8 would breathe a new lease of life into the old devices, meaning users would less likely upgrade their contracts.
Apple and Android OEMs do it all the time
People are still buying the iPhone 3GS in droves, despite the fact that feature like Facetime, Siri and others are not available on the device. The reason why the iPhone 3GS is still receiving iOS updates is because Apple has control of hardware as well as software, so they can afford to write new drivers to go with their latest version of their operating system. Can you imagine Microsoft trying to convince Samsung, HTC, ZTE, LG, Fujitsu, Dell and Acer to write new drivers for devices that didn't sell well? On the flipside, Android OEMs are still shipping devices with Android 2.3.x (Gingerbread) on low-end devices and people are still buying them in their millions, despite some knowing that they will never see 4.0 (ICS).
Because WP8 requires DirectX 11 hardware, it's impossible for WP7 devices to handle DX11. In addition, new native code games cannot run on WP7 devices as native code for CE kernel and NT kernel is largely incompatible. This will cause a dilemma to developers who might be stuck between developing for WP7 or WP8. The saving grace is that Microsoft was wise enough to allow backward compatibility on WP8. WP7 apps and games will work on WP8 but unfortunately not otherwise. This means that developers can continue developing apps for WP7 with the knowledge that they will work on WP8 devices. Also, it's good news for users as they will not lose functionality on apps they have invested a fortune on. The argument that WP7 users will be stuck with devices without apps doesn't hold water either. Marketplace currently boasts of a 100000+ applications, and given the current rate of publishing, who knows, that number could be swelled by 50% by the time WP8 truly gains traction. Nokia certainly isn't abandoning Lumia users as they are constantly adding new exclusive apps to the Lumia range (Zynga and EA anyone?).
The moral of this story is that you should be grateful Microsoft is even thinking about providing some sort of update for WP7 devices when they have no obligation to do so. Having the WP8 start screen is as good as having the full WP8 experience, minus the features of course. Just like the iPhone 4 without Siri on the 3GS without Facetime. Those that bought Nokia Lumia devices having read rumours that they were going to receive the full Windows Phone update have only got themselves to blame. Microsoft has warned you, devices will be supported for at least 18 months. I would advise those with new-ish devices to take the plunge and upgrade at the earliest possible time so as to synchronize their contract upgrades with Windows Phone's every-other-year major updates. So, next time you feel like mouthing off about Microsoft stitching up loyal users you should think twice!
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