Software updates: Windows Phone vs. iPhone

I’ve complained again and again about Microsoft’s inability to ship software updates for Windows Phone, noting that the sheer number of missing features and bugs requires a steady stream of hot-fixes. They’re not listening, and are instead embarking on an agonizingly slow update cycle that involves monolithic releases (where each release builds off the previous release) on a slow, slow, slow schedule.

This is exactly how they shouldn’t be doing it.

But then Microsoft isn’t the only company with a modern smart phone. Three and a half years ago, Apple released its first iPhone, and while I instantly grasped the importance of this device, I also recognized at the time that it was a work in progress, especially for Windows users. And so I wrote a number of articles (like this one) in which I complained about missing features and bugs (sound familiar), all back in 2007-2008.

But I did something else as well. As Apple released updates for the iPhone throughout this time period, I documented the updates and changes. And you can look back on this document now and compare and contrast what Microsoft has done with Windows Phone in a similar time period.

Let’s see how they compare, using similar time frames as a comparison.


Microsoft, October 2010 – January 2011 (three months)

Software updates, improvements, bug fixes: 0

This one is easy. Microsoft has done nothing.


Apple, July 2007 – October 2007 (three months)

Software updates, improvements, bug fixes: Many, including:

iPhone 1.01, August 2007 – Bug fixes and security fixes, including stability fixes.

iPhone 1.02, August 2007 – More bug and security fixes.

Major new updates announced, September 2007 – Apple transparently revealed early in the month that coming iPhone updates would add ringtone support, iTunes Wi-Fi support, and Starbucks service support. Apple also announced sweeping price cuts.

Ringtone editing and purchasing, September 2007 – Apple delivered on its ringtone promise just 6 days later.

iPhone 1.1.1, September 2007 – Added the promised iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, data roaming, double-tap support for the Home button, and much more.

IMAP support for Gmail (added by Google, not Apple), October 2007.

Of course, it didn’t stop there. Apple delivered iPhone 1.1.2 in November 2007, and iPhone 1.1.3 in January 2008. The sheer pace of improvement and innovation there is stunning in retrospect. And it makes what Microsoft has done in a similar time frame—i.e. absolutely nothing—look even sillier by comparison.

To summarize, the Microsoft of 2011 doesn’t compete effectively with the Apple of 2007. How, exactly, are they going to compete with today’s Apple?

It’s a pretty relevant question, I think.

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84 Responses to Software updates: Windows Phone vs. iPhone

  1. palavering2u says:

    I must agree with you. In today’s competitive market, bug fixes and enhancement updates are critical to the success of a product line. The absence of these things is quickly revealed to anyone with an Internet connection. In the end, consumers will go elsewhere.

  2. hashpot666 says:

    Paul, I see your point and I think it would help public perception of the updates had already started rolling out in increments. However, you yourself have documented the updates that are forthcoming. So maybe the update that comes out takes 4 months and covers most of the basic bugs, fixes that Apple fixed in smaller updates – that’s still ok for me. Remember also that something like iTunes WiFi support is already part of the Zune marketplace – so maybe one way of thinking is that MS has already packaged a good many features into this first release – in fact, probably more than Apple did. I understand they’re trying to catch up to a monster in iPhones but maybe it is better this way to get one massive update in February and then hopefully start a monthly cycle similar to Windows on the desktop.

  3. froesei says:

    My question is:
    Is this message simply not getting through to Microsoft, or do they realize they need to be doing this, but for some incompetent reason they are just unable to? Neither option is encouraging – hopefully there’s a third possible explanation for all of this.

    • fearthed0nut says:

      My uneducated guess would be that there likely ARE people at Microsoft who ‘get it’, but are not being listened to. Sadly, those are the people most likely to leave.

      There are a lot of competent people at Microsoft. In face, I spoke with some at PDC, including a really neat guy that works with media center. After talking with him, I totally think he ‘gets it’ but was frustrated by inertia. I’ll be there is a lot more.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        You are correct sir.

        And this should be stressed: Almost to a person, everyone I meet at Microsoft is serious about changing the world and making good products that people love. They are intelligent, and driven, and want to succeed. They are good people.

        How do these voices get shut down? Easily, actually. Microsoft is a huge company with a crazy amount of hierarchy, teams that compete against each other and people who squash products and ideas they didn’t think of or could be even slightly competitive with what they do. So these employees come to work every day, run into this wall, and eventually stop trying. But they take their pay, their benefits, and they buy their McMansions and town homes and luxury cars, and they are loyal to the people who randomly gave them a break at some point, even when those people may have driven part of the company into the ground. And time goes by. And other, faster moving companies succeed. And Microsoft sits still. But if you drive around the Microsoft campus, you see nothing but the look of success and growth. And sprawl. It’s all so oblivious to what’s really going on in certain markets.

        Someone, someday, will write a book about this. Something called, “Windows Everywhere: How Microsoft Took the Most Successful Software Franchise on Earth and Drove It Into the Ground.” Or whatever. Because that is what is I think is happening right now. And it is freaking me out.

    • jkimrey says:

      Exactly.

      As someone who has tried to promote this platform to friends and family, it’s *so* frustrating.

      And it began with the US launch. We had been hearing 5 giga-zill-million dollars was being spent to advertise, yet the launch event was as quite as one could imagine. (The local AT&T store had 2 focus phones – one was for the display and I got the other one).

      We were promised a January update for copy/paste. Now, I really don’t care that much for copy/paste, but it would be nice to see SOME kind of update. Well, it’s mid-January, and it sounds like that “January” update was named for when the carriers would be getting the update, not us users.

      I mean, come on, how difficult is it to fix a problem where trial versions of apps will not update? Or at least stop notifying me that an update is available if I have the trial installed.

      I really don’t understand. Are there not enough resources assigned to WP7? Shouldn’t it be a high enough priority that this wouldn’t be a problem?

      As froesei said – do they not realize that the updates MUST arrive faster or are they aware of this but simply unable to move fast enough?

      /rant off

  4. fearthed0nut says:

    If I may… From the “Guidelines: Project Management” in the Microsoft Patterns and Practices division

    Determine Appropriate Iteration Cycle Duration

    When setting up your team project, determine the appropriate iteration cycle duration based on the size and complexity of your project.

    Keep the following key points in mind when determining iteration cycle duration:

    The iteration cycle should be long enough to allow team members to get substantial work done, and should cover at least a few different scenarios.
    The iteration cycle should be short enough to flexibly accommodate changes and priorities.
    In practice, a two-week iteration cycle works for most projects.

    Maybe someone at Microsoft (or elsewhere) would say a two week iteration cycle is way too short for something as complex as a smartphone. I would counter that the timeline suggested by this very article implies that Apple could follow a 2 week cycle.

    • petegoo says:

      To be fair, this is a document about agile development practices from the DevDiv P&P team, not release cycles for embedded software platforms.

      The release schedule that Microsoft seem to be taking is either a reflection of cautious resource allocation or of those resources being allocated to some larger planned release which has not been transparently communicated.

      Either way, the result is the same. Slower uptake due to lack of velocity and perceived under-investment.

      • fearthed0nut says:

        Yes, this is an agile development practice document.

        But this process was preached upon by Microsoft Consultants to a former employer for our enterprise-wide, mission critical application.

        And, to re-state my opinion above…. Apple can release incremental updates every few weeks to their ‘embedded software platform” that has far more users, applications, and visibility than Microsoft. So, if they can do it, why can’t Microsoft? Obviously, it can be done..

  5. tcooper185 says:

    And, unfortunately, the answer is “No Windows Phone 7 for me.” I’ve been holding off for a Sprint device, but without any updates to the software on the calendar and only in the crystal ball, I’m gonna have to go with an Android device on Sprint. Not that I’ll get any updates there either, potentially, but the App Market will more than cover it for me, and I just don’t see the Windows Phone Marketplace growing enough.

    I was very optimistic with the tough-sounding “You can only be 1 update behind” requirements from Microsoft. This was a major win for them…With Android devices sporting numerous different versions of the OS, Microsoft could guarantee the user that they’d be at most 1 update behind. As such, they could have easily offered copy/paste as a sole update, then offered something else (Backup functionality) next, effectively requiring the copy/paste update to go out to everyone.

    The best way for Microsoft to succeed in the phone market was to be different. The UI was that initial difference, but they also needed to be relevant. Software updates is their relevance, and they again don’t seem to have that.

    • hashpot666 says:

      we are one update behind (behind the first one ;) ). btw, the app market is pretty decent – it’s new so it will obviously take time for all the independent app makers to produce new versions. I know from my experience that the apps/games that I have installed have been updating regularly and without any issues.

  6. Gutemberg says:

    Awesome point of view Paul.

    I’m pretty sad how much we need to blame until Microsoft start doing something relate their products. For sample, I cant see my incomming callers ID oO
    It shows only numbers and not the contact name and picture!
    I pong the @WinPhoneSupport, and they just told me “its a number format problem…” So, how the hell I suppose to fix it?

    Again, good questions here Paul.

    Cya
    []s

  7. paschott says:

    I’ve got to agree. The Marketplace search troubles and some of the other bugs reported in various forums – some of these could be fixed now. From what I’ve heard there are APIs that could be allowed to the Developers, but MS is holding those back as well until the Mango release. I really don’t understand why they’re not pushing updates as fast as reasonably possible (3 months between updates is not really reasonable) and showing that they mean business. As you noted, Apple had pushed several updates in that timeframe, I’d imagine out of necessity to show their seriousness and that the iPhone wasn’t just a pretty device. MS needs to do the same and show they are here to stay, not to play.

  8. jonfisher says:

    Microsoft managers need to go home and call their spouses fat. Let me elaborate.

    Microsoft can’t move fast because of its size and complexity. Everyone knows this. Apple is a lean company with very few people (ok, maybe just one person) calling the shots and announcing direction. Apple is ran almost like a start-up. That makes it quick like a bunny.

    Think about what would happen if you called your spouse fat.
    “Honey, does this dress make my butt look big?”
    You don’t really even need to answer. A simple hesitation will be sufficient.

    The immediate fallout will force you to think fast on your feet and iterate rapid fixes to the problem.
    “You look great. You’re an angel. What? Muffin top? Honey, I don’t even like skinny broads in the first place.”
    You get the idea.

    I don’t think Microsoft is willing or even capable of taking the necessary steps to restructure into a company that can rapidly innovate and iterate. At least, not with the current management and culture in place.

    Microsoft needs a vision and not just goals. They need people in charge who really get it. I think they had a handful of people who did get it, but those people got tired of banging their head against the wall and left. What a shame.

    Have some stones, Microsoft!

  9. Walt Ritscher says:

    The lack of transparency is another problem from Microsoft. I keep hearing that the phone team is more secretive because they are competing with other hardware devices and that’s how it’s done. First there was announcements about rapid updates, then it was that the carriers could block the updates, then it was the Microsoft is still in control of the updates. Just tell us what is going on and give us realistic and truthful information.

  10. jaxtherogue says:

    I have to say i am somewhat disappointed that no updates have been rolled out and yet, it was the same for me and my first Android phone. I am not giving up on this platform yet, but that first update better be significant.

  11. lsobrado says:

    to be fair, wp7 has a number of things apple didn’t have from the start and only added later. I don’t think there is any question copy and paste will come out next month, yet took apple a lot longer to acomplish this. In other words, this is like comparing apples (pun!) and oranges.

    However, I do agree with the bigger picture: microsoft needs to stop shipping 10 features every 10 months and instead ship monthly updates as has been said before by many.

    MS has the engineering muscle to out innovate and out develop apple, but seems the leadership is the problem there. It is hard to believe Steve Ballmer is so cozy watching apple run with the table market just like the did with the iphone and do absolutely nothing.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Not to be a jerk about this, but why is that fair? It’s three and half years later. Being better than the product that shipped three years ago should be the baseline.

      • urpert says:

        Paul, I really hope someone at MS is listening to you. You’ve been speaking a whole lot of sense recently. (This from an Apple fanboy who tried WP7, found it beautiful, and would really like it to succeed against the mess that is Android)

  12. holmesrs says:

    Paul, I have to hand it to you. I believe you are placing focus where it needs to be placed. I tried to be patient too but simply put as you have, it’s just not enough for the requirement at hand. As Emerill would put it, we (MS) needs to kick it up a notch. (Make that several notches) Bam!

  13. secondruntv says:

    Maybe the Windows Phone team is busy making apps for the iPhone…

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/onenote/id410395246?mt=8

    Really… I would be happy just to hear what else they are fixing in the next update… I dont really care about copy and paste but there are alot of issues that I would like to see fixed and I hope this update isn’t just about copy and paste…

  14. sk says:

    With every minute, the gap between WP7 and Android and iOS gets wider and wider. If this is how MS wants to do things, WP7 is doomed.

  15. jeffgeno says:

    There are a few huge differences between the original iPhone and Windows Phone. The iPhone was one device made by the same company that developed the OS on one carrier. Windows Phone runs on about 10 devices by 5 different manufacturers on dozens of carriers worldwide. Each of affected members will want to test each update as it comes along, which means a lag between finishing code and release. The alternative is an update that breaks something, leading to an even worse user experience.

    My guess is this first update will take a lot longer than subsequent ones to release. Once the testing, backup, and flashing process is set and proven to work, they can release feature enhancements a little more regularly.

    • nicholas1029 says:

      The thing is, each of these handsets have almost the exact same specs. As a result, the update should run the same on each. That said, I can see the carriers still wanting to try it out themselves first. Hopefully this time they actually test it properly and not let a huge data leakage problem get by.

    • deskeys says:

      Paul, what are your thoughts on this point? Also, how does iOS address updates across multiple countries?

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        I’m sorry, on which point?

      • deskeys says:

        jeffgeno’s comment that WP7’s update approach is slowed, in part (in large part?), because MS has to deal with multiple hardware manufacturers and carriers.

    • niczar says:

      > The iPhone was one device made by the same company that developed the OS on one carrier. Windows Phone runs on about 10 devices by 5 different manufacturers

      And the user should care about this because …. ?

      Sounds to me you’re just giving a good reason to just buy Apple phones.

  16. kgelner says:

    Perhaps Microsoft figured they shipped a very solid first release, and after six months or so plan on a sort of “feature complete” release where they include the broad sweeping missing features (like cut/paste) and then get into a shorter release cycle from there?

    But they still should have planned a bugfix release one month out no matter what, users always find little things you overlooked that can be quite important.

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  18. kabukin0 says:

    Relevant post, but then again, I belive the complexity of Windows Phone launch is daunting compared to the initial iPhone release, especially in terms of application testing and carrier testing.

    – Windows marketplace has more apps at the moment, than appstore did.
    – Windows Phone is on more diverse set of carriers than only AT&T, in fact Windows Phone is in practice for sale in a vast number of countries that iPhone never sold in.

    Microsoft seems to be in the middle of Apple and Google, and I think it’s a good place to be. In fact, I would think they have learned from Windows 7. It is, if you ask me, the best operating system out there. I expect them to be as consistent and solid in delivering updates as they have been on Windows 7.

    Microsoft has promised an update in January. They have also promised some kind of multitasking-world, since they after all has announced that they are working with Spotify to make a Windows Phone 7 application. That might be a open-only app, but I doubt that for some reason.

    • kabukin0 says:

      I’ll add that the first update might be slower, due to all the carriers also having to participate and set up their systems for customizing the updates. As Belfiore said, each update is built custom to each carrier, etc. etc.

      I would also guess that Zune with backup ability will release either at the same time, or prior to Windows Phone 7 update…

  19. juleslt says:

    One key difference, of course, is that Apple had an existing route to bypass carrier intransigence, and limited number of device (one at first, then two with the iPod) to regression test.

    And no third party applications for the first 12 months – and as hackers noted, the SDK changed significantly during that period, presumably based on feedback from real-world usage & problems. Windows Phone, on the other hand, has launched with a public SDK – which locks changes into fixing the implementation, rather than design.

    Equally, a lot of Android phones are in a similar position, despite regular updates to the core OS, they are not being rolled out to users in a timely manner. It’s not harming sales – yet. People still aren’t used to the idea of post-purchase improvements!

  20. brentgv says:

    Amen!

  21. nutmac says:

    Apple provides free software update to iPhone for 2+ years (original iPhone: 2 years 8 months; iPhone 3: 2 years 4 months). It is one of the main reasons why I own iPhone. When you buy a phone, it should be supported and enhanced throughout its contract term.

    With Android, the support usually ends with the version the phone shipped with (one or two more releases if you are lucky).

    In any case, it seems Microsoft is simply late in delivering promised update. Developers have been testing a release (7.0.7338.0) for over a month now, which adds copy and paste among other enhancements.

  22. efjay1 says:

    Just wish there was an alternative OS I could use, apple and google are not for me and no WebOS devices on T-Mobile. All MS had to do was take care of the software side, they bitched that OEM’s were the stumbling block to providing updates but now its in their hands they are all but ignoring WP7, while they release applications for the iphone? Have to start asking, has MS been infiltrated by apple sleeper cells trying to derail MS’s mobile effor from the inside?

    I remember Paul mentioning that Joe Belfiore said MS would be shipping a “compelling” update very soon, months later nothing. And what exactly do we have to look forward to, copy and paste that will at best be used infrequently by most users. By the time MS finishes outfitting the iphone with the best versions of their services will anyone even want a WP7 device, let alone be waiting for updates?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      My problem is that I take people at their word. This has bitten me in the past, will bite me again in the future. When a Microsoft corporate vice president says something like to me and others in a public setting, especially, yeah, I think it’s OK to believe him. But here it is, almost exactly three months later, and I see nothing compelling, let alone anything that happened soon. So… yeah. Disappointing. This reaction is what I believe to be “normal.”

  23. jabtano says:

    I’m looking at it this as such. soon we will have iphone5 when that comes out WP7 will be where apple was on iphone second update.This is just too slow. mobile is moving very fast and MS is the big,big turtle here.if they think one or two updates ayear is going to make they are wrong.I love the OS but I waited and suffered with winmo6 for so-long while the world blew past us. I’m not waiting for them anymore.if MS wants to be in last place. if MS doesn’t want to be serious and aggressive. then I can’t support them anymore. there is way to many options on devices and the two leading OS’s have so much more than wp7. why should I or anyone else for that matter wait on MS. they can’t even give us a road map. They are a company on the down-side who can’t get things done anymore. the problem is unlike the PC OS wars there are better options this time and MS can not compete you can not swim with cement shoes.

  24. alistan says:

    I agree with a couple of the commenters above.

    Microsoft released a solid product, definitely ready for consumers and definitely with enough good features that I rarely, if ever, feel like something’s missing. Faster app load times will be nice, but I came to WP7 from a second-gen iPod Touch that had been rendered almost useless by iOS 4.0 (so slow as to be almost unusable), so what I have now is a lot faster than I was used to.

    It is, however, a little odd that every month there’s a Patch Tuesday that covers multiple Windows operating systems, and Microsoft often releases important patches between Patch Tuesdays. That kind of regularity makes me feel like there SHOULD be something coming every month, even if it’s just a bug fix here or a jailbreak hole fix there. That said, I’m not feeling like my phone is bad because it hasn’t had an update since it came out.

    I think, if anything, the biggest problem with the Microsoft updates situation is that there are so many different phones out there running the same OS. I bought an LG Optimus 7. The “Low” brightness setting is so bright that it’s unusable in dark or dimly lit rooms. That’s a core usability issue that is always present. It’s an easy software fix, but since it’s hardware-specific and Microsoft only deals with the software, it’s highly unlikely that it’ll ever be fixed. That’s what’s frustrating about having a Windows Phone. That’s where Apple has a huge advantage.

  25. dmw4814 says:

    Yeah, I bought an HTC HD7 from T-Mobile the day they were released, but about 4 weeks later I cancelled my contract with them and I just sold the phone on eBay yesterday (it wasn’t listed more than 10 minutes before it sold!) to offset my early termination fee. I was VERY excited about Windows Phone 7 when I first learned of it and just had to have one, but ultimately I decided that the operating system was just missing WAY too many features (that Android and the iPhone already have) and I just didn’t have the patience to wait for the glacially slow pace that MS has apparently decided to adopt in adding missing features to it. I also already had service (5 lines!) with Verizon and I think MS made a HUGE mistake in not offering CDMA versions of WP7 for Sprint & Verizonat the same time, or at least shortly thereafter, as the GSM versions! I also couldn’t justify the expense of moving all 5 of my lines over to T-Mobile, and their service just isn’t anywhere as good as Verizon’s. Plus, without the phone being a hotspot or WP7 supporting tethering, I would’ve needed another solution to connect my laptop to the Internet while I travel (I drive a tractor-trailer for a living) – for an additional monthly expense!

    You’d think MS would’ve learned their lessons with Vista, an operating system that was released half-baked (like WP7!) and not quite ready for prime-time but, no – apparently not! By the time Windows 7 was released, Vista was an excellent operating system because of all the updates/fixes that were released for it, but by that time it was basically doomed due to the poor reputation it had (deservedly so – at least, initially!) earned. That’s exactly what is going to happen to WP7, and it already was handicapped by the poor reputation MS earned with all of it’s prior mobile phone operating systems, up to & including Windows Mobile 6.5! Taking a snail’s-pace approach to adding features and updates to WP7 was EXACTLY what MS needed to not do!

    Because of the missing features, slow update process and the lack of any concrete availability date for WP7 on Verizon’s network, I’ll probably buy an iPhone 4 next month when Verizon starts selling them, instead of waiting for WP7!

    Nice job, Microsoft!

  26. zzzgz5 says:

    Apple owns the entire process end-to-end. Apple is in effect, the manufacture of a few of devices. Microsoft on the other hand owns the OS but not the platform hardware. Microsoft must work with multiple Hardware OEMs to certify some types of updates. This obviously adds time to the update cycle.

    Apple does not need to certify their software build with multiple vendors. The only have a small number of devices to certify and they can do this in house.

    Secondly, while we may all want updates to be rushed out piecemeal, the mindset at Microsoft could be that the quality and total integration of the updates will be best served by pushing out update on a quarterly basis or some other schedule. It’s also not entirely unreasonable to assume the first update cycle will be longer than subsequent cycles just because their processes to get this out are not completely ironed out.

    I agree that the silence is deadly; Microsoft needs to do a better job communicating their plans with us.

  27. jdebner says:

    I had to sign up and make an account to respond to this in hopes that I can at least clarify some of the language you are using here.

    Windows Phone 7 launched in the US October 22nd 2010.
    -Current time since launch less than 3 months in US.

    The Original iPhone launched in the US June 29, 2007.
    The next big release was September 27th, 2007 almost exactly 3 months from the launch date.
    The BIG update included attachment support, double click home button, and international roaming along with some other minor things.

    The next update after this was not until January 15th 2008 (almost 4 months later).

    But what I would like you to realize is that there is a big update coming out in the latest of which people expect 1st week of Febuary (it was already seen demo’ed at CES) which would but it right around the same timeframe of the iPhone update of 3 months +/- 1-2 weeks. This update will include overall app speed increases, bug fixes (marketplace), and copy/paste [which iOS didn’t put in until June 2009 exactly 2 years from launch].

    I would agree that Microsoft needs to remain agile and quick to update it’s products and add features in order to stay in the game with iOS, but another thing that should be mentioned is the different development models of Microsoft vs Apple. The amount of testing Microsoft does on their products compared to Apple is something that can be seen by the number of security updates Apple has had to add to iOS (and one of the reasons for the in between updates). WP7 on the other hand hasn’t had any security vulnerabilities that I have heard about even though it is running IE! ;-)

    TL;DR
    The comparison for past developing cycles made in the post is ignoring the fact that an update is supposed to launch in the next 3 weeks. The comparison in the comments comparing current development cycles is also unfair given operating system development starting from scratch has a much larger cost, but once you build up the base it becomes easier and easier to add features. iOS is at the point where developing and adding on features is minimal, and hopefully WP7 will eventually be at that point but we aren’t there yet. The iPhone was launched 3.5 years ago, and WP7 was launch <3 months ago. Would you say that WP7 is less than 3 years feature wise behind the iPhone? If yes, then they are at least on the right path.

    I would encourage you to look at the actual version history to read the details of the version releases

  28. I’ve never been more disappointed with Microsoft in the mobile space than I am at this moment in time, actually, I’ve been spitting mad since after CES. All I saw was Andriod dominating everything, from smartphones to tablets, and what did Microsoft bring to the party? nada. Yeah, they will be porting Windows to ARM, great, but that will be in a couple of years time when we get Windows 8. In the meantime, Apple & Google would’ve ran away the with another segment of the market with the iPad, Xooms and Galaxy Tabs, etc, like they’ve done with mobile. What is going on with this company? It’s exactly one year from last year’s CES and nine months after the iPad came to market and still no tablet OS or any viable alternative.

    As a Microsoft fan, this is really becoming depressing, especially seeing in the last few months that the iPhone has been getting more funtionalities in Bing, Bing Maps, Live Messenger and now OneNote and nothing for WP7.
    If I don’t get some compelling update for my Omnia 7 in the February update that is going to at least put us on par with the iPhone as regards to Bing, Bing Maps and Live Messanger and if I don’t hear some outstanding news regarding future updates come MWC, I’ll be getting the iPhone 5 come June. I’m not putting up with this any longer like I did with WinMo 5, 6, 6.1 and 6.5 while I watched the iPhone and then Android make all the right moves. I believe that WP7 is the most outstanding and elegant mobile OS in the market right now but if Microsoft aren’t going to be updating it in rapid fashion to bring it on par features wise with Android and the iPhone, then I’m OFF. This is not the PC market, if Microsoft wants to play in the mobile space, they need to be as fast and nimble as the opposition, they need to be updating this OS every couple of months for the next year or so to bring the OS on par with iOS and Andriod quickly. I became an early adopter of WP7 because I wanted to see if Microsoft is really serious about mobile as they’ve claimiing since last year’s MWC, they better not let me down.

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  30. salvodan says:

    What I’ve found with iPhone updates is that they could be two frequent.
    Apple push updates out quite regularly; iTunes and the device software usually have to be updated at the same time; next thing the Consumer has had to download several gigabytes to update one device. If they have more than one computer or more than one device, the amount that needs to be downloaded increases proportionally.

    This isn’t too bad, unless the Update has a bug; in which case, a few days later, the consumer has to download a whole new sets of updates.

    Microsoft will have different problems, but the same issues may occur; if Microsoft issue an update for WP7 and discover an issue after the update has been made public, They will have to issue another update almost instantly. Hardware vendors will be forced to update to the latest version since they would be contractually obliged to update to the buggy version, and then would be forced to update to the most recent version by the situation.

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  35. cyborgssc says:

    Paul, everything you said is correct, but you left out one relevant comparison. When was the app store launched for each platform? For the iPhone, it was a full year after launch, in July 2008. For Windows Phone 7, is was on day 1. This has a significant effect on the perception of platform evolution, as you know. The fact that Microsoft (full disclosure – my employer, but I don’t speak for them) has not issued software updates is mitigated by the constant progress on the app side. When the iPhone launched, it was the built-in apps and the jailbreak/homebrew scene for a full year, along with the Apple-issued updates you mentioned. Full credit to Apple here for popularizing the app store mechanism and making their hardware platform feel alive, but also give Microsoft credit for being ready at launch with the store and developer tools.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      So, I didn’t leave that out on purpose, but let’s say that Microsoft’s app store is off to a quicker start than Apple’s was. Neat. But it should be, it’s three years later and we know now how important this stuff is. This sort of bolsters my actual point: Why isn’t the rest of the Windows Phone experience where it needs to be, now that is over three years later? Microsoft needs to compete with the present, not the past.

    • i agree w/ paul — one shouldnt place too much weight/credit on launching w/ now oldhat features; or for implementing them faster than what came before. why? because if they dont do them faster, something is very wrong — successful implementations have already been deployed, showing how to do them correctly. ex: copy and paste. apple’s implementation of this is clever and took them some time to figure out. microsoft can now quickly leverage that implementation to code something similar. thus, shorter dev time.

      thats a given. not a credit.

  36. I am irritated with the update cycle. This is a good product and a great platform. In the beginning, they should have pushed out releases as fast as they fixed problems.

    This would have got them press… “Microsoft issued another Windows Phone Update today”. As well as shown consumers (and gadget blogs, etc…) that they were ‘for real’.

    Instead, it was a weak ad campaign, followed by silence, followed with an impressive 0 updates.

    Fortunately, AT&T got quite a few of the phones out to families with the BOGO offer. This is such a great UI. It almost hurts me that they won’t fix it fast.

    THEN, at CES, all that focus on the ARM stuff (which is important), but I would have put out tablets with this ‘Metro’ UI on it. Hell, I would have manufactured it myself (as Microsoft), if I couldn’t find a partner. This thing would look gorgeous on a tablet. Throw in ‘Play To’ and all of a sudden, you can throw video all over your house.

  37. davesmall1 says:

    Q. How, exactly, are they going to compete with today’s Apple?

    A. Here is a plot of Microsoft’s stock price from the beginning.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=MSFT&t=my&l=on&z=l&q=l&c=

    Ballmer took over in the year 2000.

    Rather dramatic to compare before Ballmer and after Ballmer isn’t it?

    There’s your answer.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      ?

      The question was with regard to the smart phone market. Apple sold 16 million iPhones in Q4 2010. Microsoft sold 1.5 million. Any questions?

      • davesmall1 says:

        It’s hard to know whether Microsoft is a sleeping giant or a ripening cadaver. What that chart shows is that Microsoft stalled out when Ballmer took over from Gates. That’s been more than ten years ago.

        We aren’t likely to see a comeback under Ballmer’s leadership. Apple and Google have nothing to worry about given present MS top management.

        Google, on the other hand, had the vision and foresight to bring aboard a CEO with technical background (rather than sales). They’ve really done well.

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  39. Adam Haider says:

    Having it laid out like that, it’s obvious what has happened. Apple’s iPhone updates are more direct and released based upon urgency, while WP7’s strategy seems to be cumulative updates, like a service pack where they release an update only when they have a set amount of fixes and added features complete, even their small updates are cumulative I think hence the long cycle.

    During WDC and CES, Microsoft has told us that we should expect an update in January (copy and paste and increased app speed) but it’s already the 19th! All the buzz and excitement that surrounded WP7 seems to have disappeared now from what I can see because they failed to release updates which everyone is waiting for and to be honest, the copy and paste they showed off seemed to be a botched job which could be an indicator for the lack of improvement we are going to get.

  40. Onno Willems says:

    WP7 was Microsoft’s chance to get back into the mobile phone game. But while there was lots of initial enthusiasm -mainly I think because the UI is looked fresh and has different concepts than other phones- this now has seem to have faded entirely away. WP7 is not my type of phone, but I do follow all the news about it and whish them all the best, but you cannot conclude differently than that most articles about Wp7 now seem (very) negative. Deserved or not, this will be very hard to turn around, and it is heading for a Vista like image. And image, especially in the mobile phone business, is everything (much more than in the desktop OS space, and the bad image of Vista certainly did no good there).

    I think the only way they can turn it around is indeed to start pumping out updates quickly, listen to their customers and communicate with them (i.e. reply to questions) and start a massive advertising campaign that highlights WP7’s unique features. If they fail to do these 3 aspects decently and quickly, Wp7 is doomed. People just won’t care and move on. There’s lot’s of choice.

  41. alimaggs says:

    It’s sad really, and I hope that things start to ramp up soon. The platform is absolutely brilliant (7 of my friends have picked up a WP7 phone after seeing mine)… It’s so great having all of the social integration, Xbox, Zune Pass, etc. but it does “feel” like Microsoft isn’t really throwing its weight behind it.

    I’m not sure what the situation is like in the UK, but the TV spots have disappeared… I’ve seen no print adverts of billboard advertising (where as you can’t move in London/Bristol for Apple ads, Galaxy Tab ads, jointly sponsored Android ads)… Aside from the first couple of weeks, it’s all gone a bit quiet. You’d think if any company has the money and resources to create a decent advertising campaign, it should be Microsoft.

    The lack of promotion, and the lack of updates, worries me a little, as both a consumer and a developer. And it’s frustrating too because it’s such a nice platform… My once-anti-Microsoft friend and colleague has even switched (after buying three generations of iPhones….)… He’s even bought an Xbox and is considering the Mac to PC switch too…

    For me, Microsoft should push out these fixes as they’re ready, get behind the platform and start advertising it, and get the platform on a tablet asap of else it’ll be left behind. Windows 7 might be useful on a tablet on an enterprise device but for a consumer, who wants things simpler, WP7 should be the platform… For example, if I want to watch a device on the go, should I really need to decide to open Zune, Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center or Power DVD… Should my mum? These devices need to be simple… WP7 is perfect.

    Anyway, sorry to go a bit off topic, it just feels like MS needs to get behind their mobile platform, as it’s brilliant.. It’s frustrating.

  42. super2online says:

    And the surface a agree with what you are saying. However, the iPhone has one Apple made phone to maintain compatability with. Microsoft already has 9. I would imagine this slows things down. Can they improve? Yes I think they can but I’m not sure they will ever be able to “match” or exceed Apples update cycle. This is one of the advantages that Apple will always have.

    • guilhermefdc says:

      A few random notes:

      1. iOS 4.x also has a few different – though very similar – platforms to target. When it comes to CPU and GPU, iOS probably has more dancing around to do. Seven devices is rather close to nine…

      – iPhone 3G (which shouldn’t really count, but…), iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (with two different radios)
      – 2nd, 3rd and 4th gen iPod touches
      – iPad (+ iPad radio)

      2.If there is this much testing to be done in order to release the update for 9 phones, how is Microsoft planning to ship new, updated, flying fast phones while keeping the platform fragmentation-free?
      Either there isn’t a lot of testing to do (which is what I believe – at least that that was the idea) or they’re going to go Androidy at some point. Of course, that’s assuming MSFT doesn’t want WP7 to be a niche product…

      3.Are 3 months really a long time to wait for a major update (think iOS 4.0 -> 4.1)? It seems rather fast and nicely executed – and I think that’s what the folks saying it took iOS much longer to get copy/past mean. MS seems to be addressing their platform’s shortcomings rather quick – or so they claim.
      Nevertheless, the real issue is that bugfixes are needed much faster than that. I’m pretty sure that the ChevronWP7 exploit could be used by malware – otherwise there would be no point in fixing it ;)

      4. WP7 has to be as friendly as iOS and as complete as Android if it wants to get media praise – it has to be on the edge, introducing cool, useful new features that everyone else is going to copy. Even Apple is releasing Mobile Hotspot for the iPhone now – for which its users have Android to thank for.

    • nicholas1029 says:

      But these are 9 phones with Microsoft mandated specifications. They are so closely related, that you might as well consider it 1 phone with 9 external appearances. As of right now, I’m not buying multiple phones as a valid excuse for Microsoft.

      Even then, on the Windows side they have thousands of configurations, yet they still are able to release a set of updates once a month. Microsoft can do it with Windows Phone too.

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  44. jabtano says:

    With all due respect Mr.Ballmer is a clown. any CEO that put that lady on the stage is a clown. just watching him is painful MS is not what it was under Gates. it is however what it is under Ballmer a joke. slow unable to move, and unable to fight. hey look at it this way all of us who now own a WP7 device in two years time it will be where the big two are right now. the problem is by then the big two will be light years ahead moving at warp speed while MS promise another update to address screen capture. sad they could of have really made an impact but there lack of information and a solid road map killed them. how does that tune go “bring on the clowns”

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  46. reviewdevs says:

    I don’t agree with this. I want to point out that Windows Phone 7 has what the original iPhone took a month to 3 months to bring and/or fix. The comparison of update frequency is ridiculous. With the iPhone, there were known critical security issues that Windows Phone 7 doesn’t have. Microsoft has also said they are being cautious because they don’t want to mess the update process up. The company has never said anything about the update being released this month, they only said Early 2011 and people just took that as January. If you want to be ridiculous and call out updates that took years to implement look at copy and paste.

    Windows Phone 7: 2-3 months after release for CP
    iPhone: 3 years for CP
    MS actually took the time to manage their memory even better in this update so apps open significantly faster. Apple hasn’t. All they do is just release new iphones that have higher specs than the previous. It doesn’t matter the frequency of the updates(which I believe coincides with more critical bugs) as long as they deliver the good and useful features and still fix minor bugs.(WP7 has some bugs here and there like all OS’s)

    • guilhermefdc says:

      Another way to look at it:

      Windows Phone: 2011
      iOS: 2009
      webOS: 2009 (I think)
      Android: 2008

    • dmw4814 says:

      I think your comment is ridiculous, reviewdevs! Windows Phone 7 is WAY behind the curve and is missing critical features that other phones have had for 1-2 years already. They don’t even have a CDMA version that the largest, best cell phone service provider can sell and, lets face it, Windows Phone 7 does not have the same rabid followers that will blindly buy it like Apple “fanbois” will buy Apple products (no matter if they’re crap or not!), so MS needs to do something FAST here. I know – I already bought a Windows Phone 7 device and used it only briefly before cancelling my service and selling the phone. It felt “half-baked”, like Vista did when it first came out!

      The comparison of the update frequency is INDEED valid, considering how far behind MS & WP7 are!!

      Dennis

      • reviewdevs says:

        Windows Phone has missing features but if you knew the history of the OS, you wouldn’t be saying anything. Microsoft just released the platform, do you really believe they are going to have more than Apple. Frequency isn’t valid here. Would you want to have a half-hearted, rushed update that has the possibility to brick your phone because the company didn’t take their time to work out the kinks in the update process or do you want to wait a bit longer for a quality update that can fit the most features in that time frame. It really isn’t fair to WP7 because Apple spent 4-5 years developing the iPhone +3 years that it has been out. Microsoft only had 2 years to do this because the project they had been working on since 2004 was going no where so they had to scrap it. Redoing everything and started to develop in late 2007. They haven’t even started yet, Windows Phone 8 is speculated to be released next year and if it follows the desktop releases, this may be the Vista like release and then WP8 will be the massive success like Win7.

  47. brianj2010 says:

    I think Paul is bang on regarding his comments, I’m so disappointed with the lack of transparency with Microsoft with the update process.

    On top of that I feel like a total idiot I recommend this phone to so many people and told them just hold on a month and copy and paste would be coming and lots of performance enhancements with load times. Well that was late November and now we are almost in February. So the three people who did buy it thank God only my wife 27, my mother 59, and a friend are the only people I have to deal with

    Also sending out a survey to stall us over is not what we want, we need bug fixes! Every month a update should come out at the minimum.

    This was typed on my windows phone which was acting weird! LoL

  48. shinynugget says:

    There is point that is being glossed over by many posters that Paul comes back to in his replies. The current WP7 is a mixed bag of truly innovative features(tiles) that separate WP7 from the competition and some that leave it behind. I won’t run the list here as Paul and others have covered this ground. The biggest problem with WP7 is that in a lot of areas it matches features a with product that is 2-3 years old in the mobile space. This has become a virtual eternity in a consumer’s brand awareness. No vendor should be guilty of releasing a product in this sector, in today’s rapid fire market that doesn’t at minimum meet 80-90% of the current feature sets of its competition. To ask developers to make up the kind of ground necessary to match iOS4.x and Android is a monumental task and serious handicap to penetrating the market. Could you imagine in 2011 a car being released that targets the Toyota Camry/Honda Accord segment with no A/C, CD, power windows, power locks or other features standard in even a base Camry/Accord? How many buyers would that brand have without serious changes to the product? Microsoft has to field a device that is not only competitive virtually feature for feature with current tech but forges its own path as well. There is no money to be made competing with the past. Companies have to forge their own futures and not follow in the wake of their competition. Whether you like the device or loathe it the iPad created a new market segment. New Market Segment. In other words Apple created a product that had no competition. Zero. Zilch. None. Sounds like just what they did with iPod/iTunes and the iPhone doesn’t it? Your turn Microsoft, now get to work.

  49. smoothbond says:

    What can I say? I dont always agree with you Paul, but this time I have your back 500%. I got my WP7 in the UK at Launch, I already had an Iphone 4 but I saw the promise of Windows Phone and took out a new contract even though I still had 12 months left on my Iphone 4. I loved my Samsung Omnia 7, absoloutely loved it and for the first few weeks I was in Heaven., I told all my friends to get it. But then the little bugs started becoming bigger, oh, I can’t connect to hidden Wi-fi networks, so I’m screwed in the office, ok I’ll live. Hang on, when I watch movies with my bluetooth headset I dont get audio, so I need to use wired headphones for movies and revert back to wireless when I play music, ok so I’m screwed on the train…I’ll live. The default settings on the Camera require me to be frozen in Ice before I can take a shot thats not blurry, heaven forbid I change the settings to optimize the camera,I’ll only have to do it again the next time I use it…so I cant just take a snap of my 15 month old boy when he does something adorable…oops..I’ll live, whoa what? no pictures of Jonathan when he smiles without me asking him to hold that pose while I change camera settings? NO I WONT LIVE. and that was my story, I returned to my Iphone this month and sold my WP7 on Ebay. I had to pay of the contract and as much as I miss things like the live tiles and the facebook integration, Microsofts continued slow(non) response to the myriad of issues makes me thing I made the right decision and when I look back at Windows Phone 7 now, I think she was defintely a stunner, not much happening up top though

    • kabukin0 says:

      The iphone4 is a much more mature product. The hardware is very very good. It has a secondary front camera. It has a gyroscope. It uses well-established google services in it’s core.

      It’s also cheaper than the Samsung Omnia 7, at least where I am.
      With that said, it is totally wierd to even look at Windows Phone 7.

      Early adopters should be treated with upmost care, after all it wouldn’t be that difficult to keep us informed, we are only 2 million people still…

  50. Great Article Paul!! Anyone who doesn’t see the logic in this (with the facts you’ve laid out to back it up ) is not seeing the situation clearly.

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