Windows Phone 8 is official, and Microsoft has confirmed what we’ve suspected for months: current handsets won’t be eligible for an upgrade. Instead, they’ll receive a stop-gap release called Windows Phone 7.8. Well that sucks.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that Microsoft is updating its OS to take advantage of superior hardware. That’s the biggest current knock on the platform, and has no doubt slowed down adoption. Unless you’re in love with the features and UI, that HTC One X sitting next to it with the 720p screen looks a lot prettier. Well, this fall, Windows Phone 8 devices will sport the same sex appeal.
For those of us with WP7.5 devices, things don’t look as nice. The 7.8 release will have the “core customer experiences” from version 8, which seems to only mean the new Start Screen. No DirectX, no shared core with Windows 8, and possibly no IE 10. Ok, some of those things I can live without. A completely new code base with apps that aren’t backwards compatible? Well that’s a little more essential. How is that going to effect app development? Will developers have to create separate versions of their apps for each version? I’m sure some will do that for a while, but how long until they stop developing for the older platform? I’ll be more than a little pissed if it’s before the two-year contract that I just signed runs out.
It’s one thing for Apple to drop support for a device that’s two generations old with every release of iOS, but for my Lumia 900 that I bought in April to be left out of the upgrade loop is a little ridiculous. If Apple can release slightly crippled versions of iOS on older phones, couldn’t Microsoft at least release a version that may not support DirectX or whatever is holding it back but would still run WP8 apps? Maybe they couldn’t, I don’t know anything about software development, so I can’t say.
What I can say is that I’ll have to warm up to the idea of WP7.8. With an upgrade two years away it looks like I’ll be stuck with it for a while. Hey, at least that new Start Screen looks nice.