Editorial – Microsoft hands power back to the networks?

I’m worried, and I’ll tell you why. Back in 2002 Microsoft emailed me after reading some of the stuff I’d put on the web. The first Microsoft Smartphones were hitting the market and I’d added some critical but constructive posted about it. They respected this, and they wanted to hear the feedback from you guys – the community – about how their handsets were performing.

It was the start of an amazing ride. I’ve stood feet away from Bill Gates, I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve spoken to the real, actual people who designed, built and tweaked the OS. They listened, they were interested and it was a real open floor.

Years later and “that iPhone” was born. Things drifted, changes weren’t made, OS updates were few and fat between… and usually removed all of your for. Windows Mobile got stale. Oh, and let’s not mention the Kin… But finally, and far too late in my opinion, Windows Phone was born. Windows Phone 7 was good. Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) was far better. The Nokia deal brought us the Lumia handsets and the marketing campaign exploded onto our TV’s.

We were told that you don’t have to worry about networks putting blocks in place. Your phone will get the update and you will have the latest version of the OS. When Windows Phone 7 first appeared, we figured that Microsoft would be driving, just like Apple does.

Things, though, are continuing to change. That open channel of communication I’ve used with Microsoft is closed. I can no longer tell Microsoft what you love and what you don’t love. The central “Where’s My Update?” page that Microsoft added for Windows Phone customers is being removed and they’ve left us with a potentially disappointing reason…

This week we started to make a new Windows Phone update —8107— available to many Windows Phone customers. The update, available to all carriers that request it, is part of our ongoing maintenance of Windows Phone.

Questions are now being asked about the “to all carriers that request it” part and this point alone has caused a huge negative response in the Windows Team Blog. We hope it’s just badly worded, because this alone at least sounds like Microsoft are letting carriers / networks trigger updates when they want, instead of the other way around.

If it is as it seems, this leads us onto question number two. Is that “networks can block one update cycle but the update will roll in the next cycle”-rule still in place?

The “Where’s My Update” page was a way of finding out where you, the consumer, stood in the queue. It may have been pulled because it could have inadvertently portrayed partners in a bad light because certain phones may get the update later than others.

I’m sticking my neck on the line here, but there’s something going wrong at Microsoft. It’s not just this recent decision to seemingly let networks call the “update shots”. It’s not just the fact that the community no longer seems to matter. It’s not just the fact that you can’t see when an update is about to arrive. It’s not even the fact that the latest update of Windows Phone 7.5 is “7.10.8107”. Heck, it’s not the OS either, because the OS is good. There’s something very wrong here, and it’s a combination of decisions that I just can’t agree and really don’t understand.

Android updates can be as bad. Updating can be a hit-and-miss affair but Android phones and tablets almost attack you when you enter a phone shop or the supermarket. Meanwhile iPhone handsets update perfectly, but when a potential signal problem came along they continued to sell handsets by the boat load. There’s a loyalty there, a brand, an acceptance to some degree.

Microsoft, if you’re out there, look at the comments on your own site. Listen to your customers. You do not have the luxury of a massive user-base and a myriad of manufacturers. Listen now. Listen hard.

Link – Windows Team Blog