Thursday, 24 February 2011

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Update Snafu No Minor Issue

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 plans hit a bit of a speed-bump this week.

A few days ago, the company began pushing through a "smaller infrastructure update that will help future updates," including the long-awaited addition of a cut-and-paste feature sometime in early March. "While it may not sound exciting, it's important because it's paving the way for all future goodie-filled updates to your phone," Michael Stroh, a writer for Microsoft's Windows team, posted Feb. 21 on the Windows Phone Blog.

For some Windows Phone 7 users, though, that update made things a little more exciting than expected, if you define "exciting" as "stall midway through the update and force a hard reset or, in some cases, totally brick my phone." Within a day of the update starting to push its way into the ecosystem, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 help forum erupted with commenter threads about the issue, with titles like, "WP7 Stuck on Step 7 of 10, how long should this update take?" and "Update error with Optimus 7."

Most of the issues seemed to affect Samsung smartphones, which is apparently why Microsoft decided to pull the update for those devices.

"We have identified a technical issue with the Windows Phone update process that impacts a small number of phones," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a Feb. 23 email to me. "In response to this emerging issue, we have temporarily taken down the latest software update for Samsung phones in order to correct the issue."

Microsoft has several updates scheduled for the second half of 2011, including multitasking, Twitter integration with the platform's "People" Hub, and Office document sharing and storage via Windows Live Skydrive. Internet Explorer 9 will also be added to the platform.

In the not-so-distant past, when Microsoft was prepping Windows Phone 7 for release, I suggested that the smartphone platform's rollout needed to be near-flawless in order to have the slightest chance of succeeding against Google Android and Apple iPhone. Having bled smartphone market-share for the past several quarters, Microsoft had precious little capital with either consumers or businesses in the mobility realm; one high-profile flub with Windows Phone 7's software or hardware would risk all the effort spent touting it as a viable alternative to those rival platforms.

I'm not sure this issue with the update counts as a catastrophe for the platform, but it's certainly giving Windows Phone 7 a burst of negative publicity it doesn't need. It also increases the pressure on Microsoft to execute the balance of its 2011 updates as flawlessly as possible.



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