Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it is extending the support lifecycle for Windows Phone 8 - originally 18 months in length - to 36 months, guaranteeing platform updates and security patches for the operating system until January 2016.
Yesterday, the company detailed its latest update, General Distribution Release 2 (GDR2), which will begin rolling out to devices over the next few weeks. Like the update before it - GDR1; better known by its development codename, 'Portico' - the upcoming update will deliver a set of relatively minor fixes and improvements to the OS, including FM radio support and broader availability of its Data Sense feature. Many Windows Phone 8 owners have already expressed frustration over the seemingly lethargic pace at which new, and more substantial, features are being rolled out.
It looks like things may not get much better any time soon. The Verge has been doing some digging, and has shared details uncovered from their sources regarding the state of Windows Phone updates. The most significant revelation appears to be confirmation of what had been widely feared - that the 'Blue' update for the OS won't arrive until early 2014.
Why such a long wait? It seems that Microsoft had originally intended to deploy more regular and more significant updates, but unexpected problems in testing updates scuppered those plans. One particularly problematic issue arose with testing unlocked, off-contract devices, specifically with how those handsets are identified by mobile networks. Issues such as this one proved harder to resolve than expected, holding up development work on subsequent updates.
For now, Microsoft is said to be concentrating on enhancements to the OS to support new hardware. As we've previously reported, the focus of the next update, GDR3 - believed to be the last update that Microsoft will deliver this year - will be on introducing support for quad-core processors and higher-resolution 1080p displays.
This will pave the way for the first 5- and 6-inch Windows Phone phablets, which the company promised earlier this week at its Worldwide Partner Conference, at which it laid out some of the broad strokes of its product plans for the next twelve months.
So the Blue update - expected to take on the name 'Windows Phone 8.1' - will be the next really substantial update for the OS, bringing significant features such as enhanced multitasking and, finally, a notification center, along with a range of as-yet uncovered improvements. The company has already announced that, in early 2014, it will launch an "enterprise feature pack" for the platform - delivered as part of an OS update - which will bring better support for corporate customers, including auto-VPN, email encryption, and device management controls for IT administrators.
But Microsoft is also said to be reviewing the possibility of bringing some of those features forward to deliver them to users in the GDR3 update later this year, apparently at the behest of the device manufacturers.
Whether that means current Windows Phone 8 users will get to enjoy some exciting new features this year remains to be seen. With Apple's iOS 7 already gearing up, and Google's Android 5.0 expected later this year - and new competitors like Mozilla's Firefox OS launching to compete with Windows Phone in the fast-growing lower-end of the device market - Microsoft can't afford to delay.
Source: The Verge