Windows Phone 8 to offer more OS customization for manufacturers? [Update]

As we reported earlier, it’s looking increasingly like Microsoft isn’t intending to provide an update to Windows Phone 8 for owners of first- and second-generation WP7 handsets. For those who have so far put their faith in the Windows Phone ecosystem, it’s a great disappointment – but perhaps not surprising, given that the mobile network operators and manufacturers would much rather you buy a nice new handset, rather than enjoying frequent updates that bring new features to your old one.

It’s a difficult balance that Microsoft must find: on the one hand, the company runs the risk of angering its customers, but on the other hand, it must keep its partners happy to ensure that they’ll continue to build and sell new devices. Microsoft has already drawn criticism from those partners over the strict limitations that it places on how the OS can be customized. While Android devices are frequently adorned with custom user experiences such as HTC’s Sense UI and Samsung’s TouchWiz, Microsoft has imposed tight restrictions on how its mobile OS can be customized by OEMs and carriers.

That may be set to change with Windows Phone 8. Netbook News claims to have got its hands on a copy of the “high level agenda” for a Microsoft summit on Windows Phone 8, being held at the company’s UK headquarters in Reading, Berkshire. One of the topics that will be covered at the gathering – where manufacturers and other Windows Phone partners will be present to discuss the next version of the operating system – is that of “Customization & Differentiation opportunities”, leading to speculation that Microsoft will confer greater freedoms on its partners to make changes to the OS and user interface.

Other topics that will be covered at the summit include:

  • Apollo Review
  • Windows Phone Schedules and releases plans/processes
  • New Windows Phone 8 application development capabilities
  • ‘What’s new’ feature review of Apollo
  • Connectivity and APN management
  • Better together with Windows 8

Just how far Microsoft might go in allowing its partners to tweak the Windows Phone UI remains anyone’s guess; for now, frustratingly, there remain more questions than answers when it comes to Windows Phone 8.

- - -
Update: The Verge has uncovered a few more details on Microsoft's plans for Windows Phone 8 carrier customization, based on discussions with sources close to Microsoft. Operators will apparently be able to integrate services - including VoIP and third-party messaging - into the People Hub, essentially making these 'part' of the OS. We've previously heard that Microsoft has similar plans for integrating Skype into Windows Phone 8, and it seems MS is preparing to allow its partners to bake their chosen services into the OS too.

Microsoft apparently also has plans to open up its wallet payment service to mobile operators and allow them to brand those services as part of an integrated experience, much as the networks are already doing with Android devices and RCSe integration. This is a big deal for the wireless carriers, which are desperate to find new ways to maintain customer relevance, to ensure that they're not just turned into 'dumb pipes' for data - and to protect their revenue streams, of course.

By working with the mobile operators on opportunities such as these, it will surely help Microsoft and its hardware partners to win more carrier support in promoting the Windows Phone platform - something that they seem to be lacking a bit these days.

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It would be really nice if my Marketplace purchases could be billed through my carrier.
I personally have no issue buying from MS, but many of my fellow customers do not have the capability or trust of online purchasing, but they do pay their carrier bill each month.

Windows phone UI is already great. I don't want it to be destroyed by manufactures like they did Android with HTC Sense, Samsung Touchwiz and other bull****.

Gaah! Apple got it right with the iPhone. Microsoft doesn't have the luxury of producing its own handsets, so they must get support from carriers and makers, but PLEASE KEEP THE SYSTEM CLOSED!! For all of Apple's flaws, the single OS over multiple phone with ecosystem wide updates is the best way to go.

This isn't talking about UI changes, it's talking about letting carriers customize/integrate directly into the main hubs on the phone, aka, people, pictures etc, with their own services and maybe let them brand the hubs if they want. That's it, the core UI and layouts aren't going to change other than what MS will do.

Best thing Nokia could do is sell to MS & run as it is under the MS group od companies so MS gets one builder & a whole load of infrastructure networks.

As we reported earlier, it's looking increasingly like Microsoft isn't intending to provide an update to Windows Phone 8 for owners of first- and second-generation WP7 handsets.
Good luck differentiating from Android's fractured ecosystem if this were to hold up.

I suspect Microsoft is quite aware of that, and they would be stupid to push away their existing customer base (of which I am one). From everything that I have read, there is nothing about Windows Phone 8 that prevents it from running on the original Windows Phone 7 phones.

To put it plainly: I would go back to iOS if Microsoft stopped supporting WP7 devices with the release of WP8, as would my friends that use Windows Phone (many thanks to the recent Smoked by Windows Phone challenge).

I both hope and expect that this article is off-base.

I have four goals with WP8 that will put it over Android, and eat into iOS:

1. Allow us-micromanagers to close multitasked applications (even though I know they're not doing anything, it bugs me that I cannot "close" them directly).
2. Allow third parties to integrate into the various hubs.
2a. Allow users to remove apps from each hub everything not built into the OS (e.g., the carriers' garbage referenced in the story).
3. Allow native code development. This will allow for much faster ports of existing applications from iOS and Android to WP.
3a. Automatically scan for private API usage (to help avoid apps stealing data).
4. Allow live tiles to include one control on them, such as a checkbox so that I can use some of them as toggles (e.g., WiFi and Bluetooth). This would be even faster than having the existing live tiles that act as shortcuts to the appropriate Settings menu. Build the obvious defaults into the OS. I can live without this one, but it's so easy that it should be done, even if it is special-cased.

What Microsoft should really do is to open up the OS to us, the users, for customization!

Couldn't believe it initially (after touting so much about the "integrated-ness" of the OS) that Microsoft didn't provide APIs for 3rd party VoIP and messaging apps to hook into the people hub so far... even if carriers are able to do that, users should be able to install apps to do that as well!

I'd be mighty pi**ed if they don't bring the upgrade to existing phones... atleast the second generation ones...

It would count for a pretty poor support cycle for people who are buying the current 1.4Ghz handsets now...

I checked out the source (netbooknews) and I don't see where this piece of info backs up rumor about 1st and 2nd Gen devices won't be getting Apollo update. I don't see it, unless I'm missing something. plus they linked to theverge and I think we all know that the editors over there likes nothing Microsoft.

Even Joshua said it himself: to get a lot of page views, write something bad about windows phone

ctrl_alt_delete said,
I checked out the source (netbooknews) and I don't see where this piece of info backs up rumor about 1st and 2nd Gen devices won't be getting Apollo update. I don't see it, unless I'm missing something. plus they linked to theverge and I think we all know that the editors over there likes nothing Microsoft.

Even Joshua said it himself: to get a lot of page views, write something bad about windows phone

It was never said that first or second gen devices wouldn't be upgradable. All that the sources said was that version 7 apps would be compatible with version 8 and that they had no comment on upgradibility.

ctrl_alt_delete said,
I checked out the source (netbooknews) and I don't see where this piece of info backs up rumor about 1st and 2nd Gen devices won't be getting Apollo update. I don't see it, unless I'm missing something. plus they linked to theverge and I think we all know that the editors over there likes nothing Microsoft.

Even Joshua said it himself: to get a lot of page views, write something bad about windows phone

Which is ironic because the average joe here will say "no one cares about WP7" and yet when The Verge says "meh" about a device, the torrent of comments begins. I guess people care after all.

laserfloyd said,

Which is ironic because the average joe here will say "no one cares about WP7" and yet when The Verge says "meh" about a device, the torrent of comments begins. I guess people care after all.

Not HERE, I meant there.... You know what I meant. o.O

Well if they allow someone like HTC to put their Sense crap all over WP, whats to differentiate it from their android handsets? Will it be down to which device has the fastest warp drives or flux capacitors? MS might as well just put a bullet in WP now and save us all the trouble of watching them flush it down the drain with their continued mismanagement

efjay said,
Well if they allow someone like HTC to put their Sense crap all over WP, whats to differentiate it from their android handsets? Will it be down to which device has the fastest warp drives or flux capacitors? MS might as well just put a bullet in WP now and save us all the trouble of watching them flush it down the drain with their continued mismanagement

The original HTC Sense on Windows Mobile was a rather good product for usability and offered a unique approach to integration of 'Apps'.

However, don't expect this to return to WP8, as the 'Sense' concepts that do not match the uniformity of WP will not be allowed, as it breaks the usability model that makes WP an impressive product. Without the fast and consistent features of the OS, WP would no longer exist or have a need to exist.

There is no way Microsoft is going to hand over anything outside of the WP way to HTC or anyone else.

They are simply giving OEMS and Carriers and App designers access to Hub and other features of the phone that were originally planned, but not provided in the WP7 release. So instead of Messaging just including Microsoft services, using very controlled Microsoft rules, other products can 'integrate' as well, without having additional 'bloat' or background Apps running, like users are already doing with having several messaging Apps running at a time or getting notifications in a non-uniform 'messaging/hub' context.

Microsoft should make WP exclusive to Nokia. They would need 4 or 5 different phones. 3.7", 4.3", QWERTY (like a classic BlackBerry 9900) and a horizontal slider with QWERTY, etc. One of the benefits would be better and faster software updates (like Apple does, NO carriers involved). I really don't believe MS are going to let OEMs change the UI. That would ruin the whole "3 screens, metro everywhere" concept.

Drossel said,
Microsoft should make WP exclusive to Nokia. They would need 4 or 5 different phones. 3.7", 4.3", QWERTY (like a classic BlackBerry 9900) and a horizontal slider with QWERTY, etc. One of the benefits would be better and faster software updates (like Apple does, NO carriers involved). I really don't believe MS are going to let OEMs change the UI. That would ruin the whole "3 screens, metro everywhere" concept.

That would be extremely dangerous and really stupid on Microsoft's part.

UndergroundWire said,

That would be extremely dangerous and really stupid on Microsoft's part.

It will prob happen when MS buy Nokia in next two years

WP7 said,

It will prob happen when MS buy Nokia in next two years

What do you think will happen with Samsung (the number 1 phone manufacturer) and HTC? They get to focus ONLY on Android. Android will become even better.

Don't get me wrong, I really want this to happen. I've posted on other articles that people who want Windows Phone should only buy a Nokia device. That way the other manufacturers can drop out from making handsets with Windows Phone.

I really hope it happens soon.

Drossel said,
Microsoft should make WP exclusive to Nokia. They would need 4 or 5 different phones. 3.7", 4.3", QWERTY (like a classic BlackBerry 9900) and a horizontal slider with QWERTY, etc. One of the benefits would be better and faster software updates (like Apple does, NO carriers involved). I really don't believe MS are going to let OEMs change the UI. That would ruin the whole "3 screens, metro everywhere" concept.

This is not the product goal of WP though... It is targeted to provide MFRs the hardware flexibility that Android offers with the consistency and quality of iOS and lettting Microsoft handle the OS and updates and remove the huge development costs and fragmentation Android has created for OEMs/Carriers.

There are companies like Samsung and HTC that are just waiting for WP to take off, and are planning on dumping Android in a couple years, which they were talking about even last year, predicting that after WP8 hits and has more market success, they will start the migration away from Android as it is too expensive for them to maintain.

Microsoft would be foolish to lock down WP7 to Nokia at this point, as a lot of companies are hoping for Nokia to push WP7 and do well so they can then ride the wave and move to WP.

Android may be free from Google, but when you add in the development costs that HTC or Samsung has to devote to their custom builds and drivers and optimizations, it becomes VERY expensive really fast.

This cost is reason there are not the consistent updates to Android devices, and why Android performance varies, as OEMs just don't have the resources to rebuild every security update/fix and often don't even take the time to create the specific/optimized drivers for their hardware, resulting in lower performance and compatibility issues because they are using a generic abstraction driver.


The industry sees Nokia working with Microsoft as a 'good thing' as they can let Nokia do the heavy lifting, without having to take a dent in their current Android device sales. Then moving to WP as the market allows.

(The other 'cost' problem is that with the patents that Android and Linux use that Microsoft own, the licensing costs that go to Microsoft end up making Microsoft more money off an Android phone than a WP7 right now, because they don't have to invest in the updates or customer care of the Android phone.)

thenetavenger said,

There are companies like Samsung and HTC that are just waiting for WP to take off, and are planning on dumping Android in a couple years, which they were talking about even last year, predicting that after WP8 hits and has more market success, they will start the migration away from Android as it is too expensive for them to maintain.

Source?

How are you feeling today? Last week you were going though some breakdown spewing off conspiracy theories of Google responsible for killing people.

UndergroundWire said,
How are you feeling today? Last week you were going though some breakdown spewing off conspiracy theories of Google responsible for killing people.

I often comment drunk too.

I hope that they don't fall into the Sense trap. It would only hurt the platform. Differentiating the product among OEMs is important but to allow full customization would probably kill the platform.

FoxieFoxie said,

You are Andorid user, aren't you? Why do you people try to turn WP into Android?

Nokia seems to be doing well without that.

Here is how WP will look like after OEM customization

http://cdn5.tweaktown.com/news...pt_ui_for_windows_phone.jpg

Cute picture. But I am both an iPhone and Android user. To me there is nothing that differentiates Windows Phone from any manufacturer. There is only three things that I can think of that can differentiate it at its current state. Hardware, apps (Nokia Collection) and whether it will be upgradeable to WP8 (if the rumors are true).

WP7 said,

Don't bother mate UndergroundWire hasn't a clue what he talks about lol

Aww, are you upset by this news? Are you more upset that I have been saying this since last year? I guess we shall see what happens.

don't want these dumb OEMs fiddling with my WP8 like they do to Android. though i think Android is ugly, Touchwiz has to be one of the UIs I have seen, even beats iOS on iphone if you ask me

Customisation on android is good, but Samsung and HTC bloat the software. It's the user created stuff that really makes Android so good. I would rather like Microsoft allow users to customise it but it must come from the manufacturer as stock.

Gaffney said,
Customisation on android is good, but Samsung and HTC bloat the software. It's the user created stuff that really makes Android so good. I would rather like Microsoft allow users to customise it but it must come from the manufacturer as stock.

On an HTC WP7 there is already a ton of their software, but the way WP integration works, you can leave it alone and never see, touch, or have it running, and even rip it off.

The concept here is to allow carriers and OEMs access to the 'Hub' features of WP8 that is currently off limits to WP7, but was originally a design feature of WP7.

As you notice, the Pictures, Music Hub started out with just Microsoft access, and they slowly opened them up to Apps, with Mango offering the greatest expansion of this functionality so far.

The next step is in allowing access to the other 'Hub' features of WP, like People and adding in 3rd party services and technologies that work as a native feature of the phone. For example, as Skype is integrated into WP8, Microsoft would PO a lot companies and carriers that have their own VOIP strategies if they did not allow them to offer the same functionality and access to this level of the 'Hub' of the phone.

So instead of 'bastardized' Apps running everywhere, this is a concise way for Skype competitors and Messenger competitors to add their functionality beyond just the WP features of Facebook, Twitter, Messenger and on WP8 Skype, so that you can use the other services as an integrated feature of the phone, without having to open the company's App to do so.

So I understand why people are alarmed, but in reality, what this is doing is creating a very 'controlled' way to allow and get these Apps to use the integration features that are not yet available in WP7, so there will be less 'bloatware' and 20 Apps for voice/messaging, instead users will go to Messaging and have access to the 20 services instead.

This also means uses will not have 20 Apps running in the background, as they will be 'hooked' into the Hub and must conform to the 'notifications' and be a part of the background queue for all services in a standard and Microsoft controlled manner.

So more functionality, and better control is the result. (Less CPU/Battery usage, more consistency, and a wide new option of features for carriers and App creators to offer and Users to utilize.)

Right now the Facebook, Twitter, Live, etc integration features are brilliant and instant and consistent and one of the best features of the phone, this is just taking that concept and allowing more services and custom services to be offered to work in this manner.

Let's hope Microsoft will not fall into the "free for all" customization trap. The Windows Phone beauty is partly due to its uniformity.

The customization level offered by Windows Phone is, for the average consumer, fairly versatile. Another phone operating system is there for people who prefer "toying" with their device.

TheCyberKnight said,
Let's hope Microsoft will not fall into the "free for all" customization trap. The Windows Phone beauty is partly due to its uniformity.

The customization level offered by Windows Phone is, for the average consumer, fairly versatile. Another phone operating system is there for people who prefer "toying" with their device.

You make a good point. Customization should be for the USER to make, not some OEM or Carrier that wants to tell us what we want our phone to look like. Microsoft should empower users to be able to customize the device more, but not allow Carriers or OEM's to do so. I hope this will be the case more than anything.

TheCyberKnight said,
Let's hope Microsoft will not fall into the "free for all" customization trap. The Windows Phone beauty is partly due to its uniformity.

The customization level offered by Windows Phone is, for the average consumer, fairly versatile. Another phone operating system is there for people who prefer "toying" with their device.

The variation is not as fragile as people are assuming, as there is a big jump from WP7's consistency and the Frankenstein versions of Android carriers release.

Microsoft can allow for more OEM/Carrier customization without worrying about falling off the wagon and getting a monstrous product.

Look at Windows on the desktop, it is arguably the most customizable OS in history. (Even though the *nix crowd finds this hard to believe.)

Yet Windows maintains a lot of consistency and uniformity for all applications over the years, that bests even OS X's consistency with its rigid nature of control from Apple. For example, the Backspace/Delete key always works the same, the single click, double click, right click, middle click all work the same, and all applications are always able to be fully navigated and used without a mouse as a natural side effect of the APIs and frameworks applications are built with.

The other aspect that people are not 'getting' from this 'news' is they are talking about 'integration' features into the OS. So they are not going to allow HTC or ATT to replace the 'Hubs' or other core OS features of WP, instead they are opening up the APIs to these areas further to allow them to participate and allow applications to interact as a natural part of the OS.

Which was an original design goal of the Hubs before WP7 launched, and slowly has progressed there with steps in allowing access to the Music and Pictures Hubs already.

With Microsoft bringing Skype integrated into the People Hub, they would alienate carriers and competitors if they did not allow them access to the same level of functionality, so that clicking on a Person can allow a one click to Skype or use an alternative VOIP service from ATT for example.


This is a 'good' thing, as the functionality of the 'Hubs' in WP will get even better and stronger, as users can add in their 'carriers' VOIP or their company's messaging technology like GoToMeeting right into their People Hub.

This will further remove the need of specialized Apps that fragment away from the universal 'linking' that the Hubs features provide, as it already does with Facebook and Twitter and Live for example.

(In CIS terms this means you can keep an integrated contact database, and yet have the multi-relationship and isolation for social and professional services, and not have to maintain separate 'contract' databases on various services and sites, by having them aggregated to your phone.)

Just like when reading Twitter or Facebook, you don't have to launch and App, and are using the 'Hub' feature of People, which is why it is instant, and updated in a consistent way that isn't running a background App draining your battery.

So it is just allowing more 'services' to users that can also be supplied by carriers and also have services provided by your employer, opening up these features to Corporations/companies to use with custom and 3rd party messaging/Voip technology. Just one example: Imagine a new seamless form of having your phone be an extension for work using their PBX/VOIP system, that is integrated into the WP8 Hub of functionality, so it works like Skype or all the other 'native' features of WP7 without the need of a dedicated App that you need to leave running.

FoxieFoxie said,
PLEASE PLEASE

Let it be Camera lenses only, me no want no Android, touchjiz, sense and other blaotware

Agreed. I have no interest whatsoever in customizations like that. I'll go with whoever customizes it the least in that case.

And on that note, I would hope (And assume) that all customizations would be able to be turned off...

FoxieFoxie said,
PLEASE PLEASE

Let it be Camera lenses only, me no want no Android, touchjiz, sense and other blaotware

It won't be any UI changes, what they talk about is letting carriers integrate their services directly to the hubs where it makes sense. Don't expect any UI stuff other than what MS will do itself.

FoxieFoxie said,
PLEASE PLEASE

Let it be Camera lenses only, me no want no Android, touchjiz, sense and other blaotware

Seriously?

Do you think with how strict Microsoft has been on the 'quality' of Apps with speed, memory, and stability they force carriers and OEMs to adhere to now, do you think they will let the 'instant' camera feature of WP7 go away with a huge bloatware camera App from a carrier/MFR?

Even their own 'photo' autocorrect feature in Mango is an 'optional' click so it doesn't interrupt the speed of taking photos. (Unlike iOS that does postprocessing on all photos which slows down snaps and also discards raw pixel data.)

WP7 said,
Will be interesting to find out details

Agreed. I would be very surprised if they were allowed to customize it much. I would wager that the main point they'll be trying to drive home is differentiation in hardware design, which is clearly an issue for some of the OEM's...