Microsoft details the complicated WP7 update process

If you’re a Windows Phone 7 user (like me and a quite a few others on Neowin), you’re likely frustrated at the lack of Windows Phone 7 (WP7) updates since launch. Now, before you yell “They aren’t slow!” you should take a look at this post by Paul Thurrott. The fact is that if you purchased a WP7 at launch, it’s been a long wait for a wide range of performance and bug fixes, and for the implementation of copy and paste.

This is the update that's been causing a lot of 'anxiety'.

Luckily Microsoft is paying attention. Eric Hautala, whose job it is to get these updates out to WP7 users worldwide, has just shed some light on the update process for WP7. In short, Eric acknowledges that they have been slow and that the slowness is causing many of us to be “understandably anxious”. He explains that with 9 handsets on 60 carriers (in 30 countries), the process can be complex. After Microsoft and the OEMs complete their parts of the update, all of the carriers have to test the update on their networks to ensure that it doesn’t cause any problems for them or their customers. The various carriers have different testing times and requirements, which can hold up rollouts of updates, and Eric emphasizes that this is normal practice for rolling out software updates on any phone – he however doesn’t mention that Apple bypasses carriers completely when rolling out updates.

The potential for carriers to block updates has been a big concern for a number of WP7 users, and Eric doesn’t actually discount the theory that carriers can block updates. Instead, he explains that Microsoft works hard with carriers to get updates out on time and that WP7 users “should ultimately receive all the updates” that Microsoft sends out. Note the usage of the word “should”.

So what’s the good news in all this? Well, Microsoft is listening. It’s likely that they’ll learn from their mistakes and the publicity those mistakes have had, and they’ll be working to improve future update rollouts. Eric also says that the delayed launch of NoDo “should in no way impact the timing of future updates, including the one announced recently at Mobile World Congress featuring multitasking, a Twitter feature, and a new HTML 5-friendly version of Internet Explorer Mobile.”

Head over to the Windows Phone Blog for the full article.

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I thought WP7 was supposed to be the holy grail when it comes to fragmentation? That seems like a pipe dream now. So all those MS fboys who taunted android users about fragmentation issues now have egg on their faces.

Apple has more carriers in more countries and no carrier to stop updates, and the update is available to 100 million iPhone users at the day.

alexalex said,
Apple has more carriers in more countries and no carrier to stop updates, and the update is available to 100 million iPhone users at the day.

They also use one celluar technology, GSM, have one phone, and don't allow any carrier or network technology specific features on their phones.

They do testing with carriers, it is called ATT. And since ATT is the world leader in GSM, if it works on ATT, it will work on the other carriers.

Even cheap phones have carrier specific technologies, which is what makes the iPhone a bit of a ******, as it removes the carrier's ability to make money from the phone, and it limits any cool features that the carrier might have available that just won't work with an iPhone.

This is why carriers that have iPhones worldwide, and even ATT are very happy to sell Android and WP7 phones, as they don't make as much off the iPhone and can't always fully enable all the features they have invested in for iPhone customers.

thenetavenger said,

They also use one celluar technology, GSM, have one phone, and don't allow any carrier or network technology specific features on their phones.

They do testing with carriers, it is called ATT. And since ATT is the world leader in GSM, if it works on ATT, it will work on the other carriers.

Even cheap phones have carrier specific technologies, which is what makes the iPhone a bit of a ******, as it removes the carrier's ability to make money from the phone, and it limits any cool features that the carrier might have available that just won't work with an iPhone.

This is why carriers that have iPhones worldwide, and even ATT are very happy to sell Android and WP7 phones, as they don't make as much off the iPhone and can't always fully enable all the features they have invested in for iPhone customers.

You do realize that apple offer a cdma2000 phone for verizon.

Phone-specific updates? This would be a huge mistake! Samsung is notorius for screwing things up in the past (android 2.1 on galaxy s i9000). Consumers get sucked in with a 'pretty' screen only to find Samsung has their own definition of customer service and standards compliance. As this delay is caused specifically by models not 100% adhering to MS WP7 standards, Microsoft should grow a pair and issue the firmware when ready and let the non-compliers clean-up their own mess. Apple has the right idea with regards to iron-clad standards that allows the end user a supreme experience and frequent, painless upgrades. At the other end you have Android with it's umpteen flavors and dead-end upgrade paths. With this admission, Microsoft has strayed from their original concept -- create an OS as good as, if not superior to, iPhone while giving the user the benefit of choosing from multiple handsets (3.7, 3.8, 4.0, and 4.3") to retain their sense of individuality and frequent, painless upgrades/updates. This is a turn in the wrong direction...

I visit Neowin daily and read nearly all the articles. When time permits, I even look at the "comments" that other readers leave.

It's not often that those who leave their "thoughts" behind irk me, but reading some of the comments on here truly makes me wonder about the intelligence and understanding of these people.

What Apple does and how they do it cannot be compared to what Microsoft does and how they do things.

Apple has strict control over everything (the device hardware and OS). When it comes to who can run what on it, it's either their way or the highway. Even die hard Apple fan boys cannot deny that.

Microsoft is primarily into software (exceptions are there but I won't go into that). If Microsoft today were to tell all OEM's (Dell, HP, Samsung, Acer and everyone else) to take a hike because they are now going to dictate the hardware their OS/software will run on (basically become another Apple), we would be having an entirely different discussion. Reality is that Microsoft does a great job in making software that run on the majority of the PC's out there (they do have issues, but that's what you get when around 90% of the world's consumers use your software on a multitude of systems from various manufacturers). I digress.

Coming to WP7, like many, I too was and still am skeptical. I would like for WP7 to succeed, not because I am a fan boy, but I would (as do many consumers) like to have choice. To choose between compelling devices (be it Microsoft, Apple or Google) and pick one for what it has to offer. I am also a developer who works with Microsoft technologies. So, WP7 makes the most sense for me. Microsoft is making an effort with WP7. Yes, they will make mistakes (just as Apple did and still does, just like Google did and still does). And I can understand why many would like to have the latest software on their system, but if Microsoft (and the others) did not do their homework and test it extensively and bow down to unreasonable consumer pressure, we would have crappy software running on our systems.

So people, give Microsoft a break. Be skeptical, provide constructive criticism and support the product. Don't be hateful and take cheap shots at them or each other. The world is already a messed up place as it is and I think we can all use with a little less hate and a bit more understanding and patience.

Yeah, I went all over the place. Just wanted to express my thoughts about what's already been shared here.

srikanthnair said,

What Apple does and how they do it cannot be compared to what Microsoft does and how they do things.

Apple has strict control over everything (the device hardware and OS).

Microsoft is primarily into software (exceptions are there but I won't go into that).

Well said, people keep forgetting MS doesn't make the hardware that goes into the phone, just as MS doesn't make the hardware that goes into your PC, I've noticed a lot of Apple guys on here seem to forget that .


Yeah, I went all over the place. Just wanted to express my thoughts about what's already been shared here.

It was refreshing to read someones thoughts on here and not want to throw my computer out the window...+1 .

Just as an FYI - I own, support and push WP7. Many of my friends have purchased WP7 devices on my advice. I can see the platform becoming great, but Microsoft needs to keep pushing to get it there and there's not a lot of time to waste.

I hate to break it to you but 99 percent of Windows Phone devices are identical inside save for a few changes, microsoft needs to just say fook it and push updates down Windows update on the desktop, hook up ur cell, and done

AnotherITguy said,
I hate to break it to you but 99 percent of Windows Phone devices are identical inside save for a few changes, microsoft needs to just say fook it and push updates down Windows update on the desktop, hook up ur cell, and done
And have 10% of phones have firmware issues again? I'd rather they take the extra week to make sure everything works fine and then push it out.

AnotherITguy said,
I hate to break it to you but 99 percent of Windows Phone devices are identical inside save for a few changes, microsoft needs to just say fook it and push updates down Windows update on the desktop, hook up ur cell, and done

Exactly the point I made above. 2 different (but very similar) processor options, one screen resolution (although various sizes, which wouldn't make any real difference), presence or lack of a keyboard, and various amounts of RAM. That is the extent of the variations in current WP7 devices.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Windows_Phone_devices

roadwarrior said,

Exactly the point I made above. 2 different (but very similar) processor options, one screen resolution (although various sizes, which wouldn't make any real difference), presence or lack of a keyboard, and various amounts of RAM. That is the extent of the variations in current WP7 devices.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Windows_Phone_devices

All PCs also meet a specific set of hardware standards and have similar CPUs, yet there is an infinite amount of hardware configurations possible with PCs.

If all WP7 phones are basically the 'same' as you are trying to imply, then the Samsung update would never have failed, as it would be impossible.

Or you can accept the reality that even with a set of common specification and processors, there is still a very large variation in WP7 phones, at a level that I don't think you understand.

This could be a learning point, as you don't seem to grasp how complex engineering electronics is and the mass variations that grow exponetially.

Start here...

In each of the WP7 phones, who makes these various components that can have differences...

Image Sensor ?
Accelerometer ?
Magnetic Sensor ?
Light Sensor ?
Gravity Sensor ?
I/O controllers ?
I/O Interfaces ?

Seriously... Maybe you don't realize that a PC with an i7 920 and NVidia Geforce 260 made by Dell and made by HP are not even close to being the same or working identically? - Just the Mainboard itself would have a few hundred hardware differences between the two computers.

"Now, before you yell “They aren't slow!” you should take a look at this post by Paul Thurrott."
It is relative slow compare to iOS, but relatively fast compare to Android.

MS just didn't have time to put all these features in, MS needed a solid competitor for android and iOS, so WP7 was sort of like a 'rushed OS'

Raa said,
The fact half these features didn't come "out of the box" is just astounding, and quite slack IMO.

iOS didn't have copy and paste "out of the box" and Android didn't have a soft keyboard "out of the box", so I don't see the problem.

day2die said,

iOS didn't have copy and paste "out of the box" and Android didn't have a soft keyboard "out of the box"

WP7 is trying to compete in TODAY's (capitalised for emphasis) smartphone OS market, not yesteryear's.

Manish said,

WP7 is trying to compete in TODAY's (capitalised for emphasis) smartphone OS market, not yesteryear's.


iPhone was competing in 2007 with smartphone OSes that has copy and paste and Android was competing in 2008 with smartphone OSes that have soft keyboard.

Tech Star said,
Apple got their update process perfect. Microsoft tried, but failed.

REMOVED

Edited by the evn show, Mar 12 2011, 6:41am : Flame bait

Tech Star said,
Apple got their update process perfect. Microsoft tried, but failed.

If apple was so perfect how come they couldn't place the cell antenna in the right spot?

Tech Star said,
Apple got their update process perfect. Microsoft tried, but failed.

I have to agree with the above user iOS only runs on the iPad and the iPhone which is two devices, WP7 runs on multiple devices with a variety of hardware, the functionality of the update has been in the codebase for quite some time, but I'm sure some of the IHV's and OEM's cut corners which is now biting MS in the ***. I blame the IHV's and OEM's for the delay in the update.

negroplasty said,

Respectfully, you're an idiot.
That's not respectful, nergroplasty.

Tech Star has a point. Apple's process is good, and Microsoft can learn a lot from that process - even though Microsoft has a far more complex (self-made) situation than Apple.

Tech Star said,
Apple got their update process perfect. Microsoft tried, but failed.

Um, no, Apple did not perfect it. I had an original iPhone. The February '08 update bricked it with error 1603 (I think that was the error code - and I thought Apple had friendly error messages). I took it to the Apple store, they told me to take it to AT&T, AT&T told me to take it to the Apple store. Apple decided to show me that great customer service, and tell me I had tried to Jailbreak it (I didn't), and therefore was out of warranty. So it was back to the AT&T store to buy a new one since I was about 6 months into my contract and would need to pay $100s to get out of it.

Then there was the days of not being able to use my phone because I updated to the latest firmware and their activation servers were down (remember how evil MS was when Windows had to register, but it is now it is OK because the iPhone does it). The updates that did not complete and you needed to hold down the top and front buttons in a certian order which usually reset the device, and on, and on, and on.

And these were only a few of the many problems I had. Eventually I got in the habit of sending mail to important contacts telling them I was updating my phone, and would not be able to talk for at least a few hours.

Brody McKee said,
That's not respectful, nergroplasty.

Tech Star has a point. Apple's process is good, and Microsoft can learn a lot from that process - even though Microsoft has a far more complex (self-made) situation than Apple.

I don't think MS problem is "self made", iOS has two devices, WP7 has way more than that and each phone has a variety of hardware, its smart to double and triple check everything, because remember what happened to the last update MS pushed out? It "bricked" some devices and people started pointing the fingers to MS even though it was a OEM screw up.

negroplasty said,

Respectfully, you're an idiot.

Your respectfully an idiot. Apple does not have to go through the carriers for quality control.

Tech Star said,

Your respectfully an idiot. Apple does not have to go through the carriers for quality control.

It doesn't take effort to "quality control" 2 devices, and thats if your counting the iPad .

jznomoney said,

If apple was so perfect how come they couldn't place the cell antenna in the right spot?

*sigh* You've failed to comprehend such a simple sentence. He said "Apple got their update process perfect" (referring to software/iOS updates), not that Apple itself was perfect.

Tech Star said,
Apple got their update process perfect. Microsoft tried, but failed.

I can only admire your ability to take so little information and make such huge conclusions, its truely masterfull

FYI - Apple (or more precisely their customers) have had issues with updates, yes theyve got a pretty slick mechanism but they should have, its in house software on in house hardware which for a long time was on limited carriers - but they still had issues.

Not fanboy defending here, just common sense, MS is at version 1 with a brand new mobile operating system which happens to be very high profile in the tech world due to some wanting/thinking it'll fail, and others knowing/wishing/hoping it'll be a sucess (I'm the in the later gang), They are at update 1 stage to add more functionality and better performance, with a huge task (and hard to test due to the size, complexity and number of parties involved) of going live with a brand new update mechanism on multiple carriers with multiple hardware profiles and multiple firmware versions. They will get it right, I totally believe this as they have the experience with windows to lean on.

We are now 4 days after the date when the NoDo should have gone live, it might be a week or two, its not a big deal

eviltwigflipper said,

It doesn't take effort to "quality control" 2 devices, and thats if your counting the iPad .

+1

Although its is a few more devices taking versions of the iPhone into consideration, but the point is that they make them, they (apple) can totally test them, they had limited carrier support to start with (giving more control, and simplified testing along with that great apple marketing technique - exclusivity.

yet they still messed up a bit, amazing!

Everyone defending Microsoft here by saying that Apple only has to test limited variations of hardware is forgetting that Microsoft set VERY strict guidelines for what hardware was required in order to run WP7. Under the shells of those various WP7 phones there is probably less variation than the different models of iPhone (5 models), iPad (2 models, each with and without 3G), and iPod touch (4 models), not counting variations in memory. That's also not counting the Apple TV 2.0 that also runs iOS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Windows_Phone_devices

Look at that list. There is VERY LITTLE difference in the hardware there.

roadwarrior said,
Everyone defending Microsoft here by saying that Apple only has to test limited variations of hardware is forgetting that Microsoft set VERY strict guidelines for what hardware was required in order to run WP7. Under the shells of those various WP7 phones there is probably less variation than the different models of iPhone (5 models), iPad (2 models, each with and without 3G), and iPod touch (4 models), not counting variations in memory. That's also not counting the Apple TV 2.0 that also runs iOS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Windows_Phone_devices

Look at that list. There is VERY LITTLE difference in the hardware there.


Limited hardware doesn't mean limited firmware. And that's what caused the Samsung issue, which lead to this whole thing happening.

And well in the future when the chassis-2 phones (and updated chassis-1) start coming out, there will be a lot more variation in hardware.

/- Razorfold said,

Limited hardware doesn't mean limited firmware. And that's what caused the Samsung issue, which lead to this whole thing happening.

And well in the future when the chassis-2 phones (and updated chassis-1) start coming out, there will be a lot more variation in hardware.

You make some valid points, as do many others. The task that Microsoft faces is bigger than that of Apple - but they chose this path... they could have followed Apple.

Brody McKee said,
You make some valid points, as do many others. The task that Microsoft faces is bigger than that of Apple - but they chose this path... they could have followed Apple.
Well they can't really follow Apple if they want to keep their ODM partners; and that's pretty much the way Microsoft has always done business. Apart from the Xbox, the Zune and some hardware devices, Microsoft is strictly a software company and they probably want to avoid the pitfalls of Apple's method and stick with what they know.

eviltwigflipper said,

I have to agree with the above user iOS only runs on the iPad and the iPhone which is two devices, WP7 runs on multiple devices with a variety of hardware, the functionality of the update has been in the codebase for quite some time, but I'm sure some of the IHV's and OEM's cut corners which is now biting MS in the ***. I blame the IHV's and OEM's for the delay in the update.

iOS runs on 2 iPhones, 2 iPADS, 2 Ipods (6 devices) in 180 countries with <500 carriers and everyone in the world gets the updates at the same time.

alexalex said,

iOS runs on 2 iPhones, 2 iPADS, 2 Ipods (6 devices) in 180 countries with <500 carriers and everyone in the world gets the updates at the same time.

Actually you'll find that carrier testing is a rather stupid thing. There's really no need for it, but yet it wastes time. Difference is Apple managed to get them to skip testing (or maybe they send them out to carriers well before the release date and then see if everything works and then release it).

Now Apple controls the hardware, the firmware, and the software of their devices. There hasn't really been that many different hardware devices (like maybe 4-5), but the firmware will vary. Now Apple makes those devices so they can test the firmware, make sure the update doesn't fail and voila.

Microsoft, on the other hand, only make the software. And the update failing wasn't exactly their fault...I mean if it was a flawed update, why did it only fail on Samsung phones that had an odd firmware? So it was something Samsung did that is causing everyone else to be delayed.

techbeck said,
sounds like the same issues android is having. Luckily XDA fully resolves that for Android users if they choose to.

Fragmentation, multiple carriers, different hardware, sounds like lots of trouble.

techbeck said,
sounds like the same issues android is having. Luckily XDA fully resolves that for Android users if they choose to.

Not really...

techbeck said,
sounds like the same issues android is having. Luckily XDA fully resolves that for Android users if they choose to.

You can also download the NoDo ROM for Windows Phone, but that's not really fixing the problem.

techbeck said,
sounds like the same issues android is having. Luckily XDA fully resolves that for Android users if they choose to.

Same issues?

Um, not even freaking close...

1) With Android, each phone MFR takes takes the source code, then CONTINUES development by writing new code, adding in fixes, specific hardware code, then has to build/compile it for the phone.

2) Testing to ensure that Android itself is running on the device fairly well.

3) MFR writes and rewrites Android specific features they offer, like UI Sense.

4) MFR tests their specific Android changes.

5) MFR writes and rewrites their own Applications - rebuilds/compiles them depending on dependencies as the Android model requires.

6) Final testing all the combine Android code, MFR fixes/changes, MFR features, MFR Apps.

7) Handed over to Carrier.

8) Carrier modifies what they get from the MFR to work specifically with their networks and infrastructure. Again, rewriting and rebuilding/compiling the changes.

9) Carrier rewrites/writes their specific Android Changes - rebuilds them.

10) Carrier Tests device on their networks and infrastructure.

11) Carrier rewrites/writes their internal and customer Apps and support tools. Rebuilding them for the new version depending on dependencies.

12) Carrier completes final testing.

13) Carrier rolls out the update to phone users.


If there is an hiccup in any of these steps, the update is sent back to the place the flaw was created, sometimes going all the way back to the MFR and Google, which requires the process to completely restart depending on how big the flaw/fix is.

They are dealing with a development process, not just reviewing and testing a finished product.

It is often left to the MFR and the Carrier to figure out the fixes for Android, as Google doesn't usually care about their device specific issues. (Bing/Google these stories or even dig through the XDA forums.)


Now remember this process if for each MFR, for each specific Phone, for each specific Carrier just for one Android update.

So imagine a Phone MFR with four phones running Android, and they are dealing with 5 Carriers. This whole process is happening 20 times for them.

For a Carrier with 10 phone models, this process is happening also happening for them 10 times.

This is far from a test and approval processs.

----

With WP7...

Microsoft builds the update - MFRs and Carriers don't ever have to touch the code, or deal with development. (They can, but don't have to ever screw with it if they don't want.)

The MFR tests it on the device and tests their apps (And due to the WP7 OS model, apps shouldn't have to change or be recompiled.)

If they have issues, Microsoft fixes them. They sign off on it.

The Carrier tests it on their network and test their apps (And due to the WP7 OS model, apps shouldn't have to change or be recompiled.)

If they have issues, Microsoft fixes them. They sign off on it.

Microsoft handles delivering the update to the phone user.

-----

Do you really think that MFRs and Carriers dealing with source code, writing their own device specific code and network specific code is even close to getting a single image from one company?

This is why Nokia didn't go with Android, as it is almost as much development and work as keeping the internal development of their own OS, and leaves them with no controls, as Google has the final say in what devices they approve and get to be sold with Android. (So much for Android being 'open' uh?)


----

WP7 is using the same model that Microsoft created for Windows itself. They give guidelines for hardware, or work from hardware standards, and then deliver an the Software/OS and pick up all the development work of creation and updates.

This makes it really easy for Computer OEMs to build computers and not have to ever write code for the computer.

It also makes it really easy for Phone OEMs and carriers, as they do not have to write code for their phone.
(Google/Bing what Samsung has said about WP7 in comparison to Android in the last six months.)

I've said this before and I'll say it again, MS should've pulled an apple and control their new platform - with their own branded handsets - in its infancy (about 1-2yrs) before having multiple OEMs and carriers got it.

These guys had years to sit back and see what google and apple were doing right and wrong, but they just don't get it.

techbeck said,
sounds like the same issues android is having. Luckily XDA fully resolves that for Android users if they choose to.

Premature to suggest, this is the first major (yes major) update so its not exactly unexpected. iOS & Android STILL have update issues even today!!

thenetavenger said,

Same issues?

Um, not even freaking close...

(snip)

And apple don't allow the (usually) inept carriers to get involved at all.

dekoy said,
I've said this before and I'll say it again, MS should've pulled an apple and control their new platform - with their own branded handsets - in its infancy (about 1-2yrs) before having multiple OEMs and carriers got it.

These guys had years to sit back and see what google and apple were doing right and wrong, but they just don't get it.

Seriously? Cause having full control of the hardware and locking out the rest of the world of phone MFRs would have been a great idea, uh?

Just like Apple does with Macs, which is SO successful compared to Windows, right? I mean how silly is Microsoft to have over 1.2 billion of the 1.4 billion computer users as customers, as well as create a full hardware and software industry surrounding Windows.

Microsoft and Windows allows a lot of hardware companies to exist, and handle the hardware and what they do best without having to mess with OS engineering and maintaining software.

If Microsoft did with computers what Apple did, they would have failed, as what they do best is hardware, platforms, and creating an ecosystem that hardware companies can leverage. Microsoft trying to put every phone MFR out of business would be silly, and just as silly as trying to put IBM, Dell, HP, etc out of business by making their own branded computer.

What Apple does, they do well, but it is not what Microsoft does.

The market doesn't need another phone, it needs a consolidated phone OS that can be applied to a wide array of devices without the work that Android and proprietary OSes require.

zoonyx said,

And apple don't allow the (usually) inept carriers to get involved at all.

Actually, they do deal with carriers - they just don't make this a public process. ATT has a lot of influence and control over how the iPhone works on the GSM networks.

It is this simple of a concept, if Apple created an iPhone update that failed to properly work on ATT's cellular network, do you really think Apple would just go ahead and release it? Do you really think they don't give it to ATT for testing?

As for involving carriers on the level that Microsoft and others do, it is also a simple concept...

Apple doesn't have to...

The effectively have ONE phone, that supports ONE cellular technology.

They only have to deal with GSM technology, and because they only work with ATT in the USA, they get to tweak and work out any GSM issues with the world's leading GSM cellular company that the rest of the world GSM carriers tend to follow, so there is not any 'weirdness' to deal with.

They don't have to code for the all the device differences, nor do they have to code for carrier technologies, as they don't offer any featues to the carriers beyond their vanilla implementation, sadly.

(The exception is Verizon's CDMA version in the USA only - and Verizon also tested the iPhone and worked with Apple on fixes for their network before it was ever released.)

So in the USA alone, Apple does answer to both ATT and now Verizon, just as they have always answered to ATT, and used ATT's knowledge of GSM to ensure the iPhone worked properly.