Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) is here
On September 27, 2011, Microsoft began its rollout of the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system update. This update, codenamed Mango, is significant for Microsoft for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it brings 500-odd new and updated features to Windows Phone 7, bringing it closer to the competition like iOS and Android. More importantly, it is also a litmus test for Microsoft’s update process after the disastrous update experience earlier (with NoDoand SSL certificateupdates). This article focuses on the excellent job Microsoft has been able to do in the update process.
Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7 to general markets in October 2010, promising choice and variety over the monotony of iPhone, and a streamlined phone and application experience compared to the wild, wild west with Android. There were some glaring omissions in Windows Phone 7. Copy-paste and multitasking were two big items missing in the original release. Copy-paste functionality was announced as a soon-to-be-coming update at the time of the launch itself.
After a very long period of silence from Microsoft, it seemed like the NoDoupdate was finally being made available in March 2011. Even though Microsoft had not provided a date, this timeframe was thought to be a highly delayed one because it was common knowledge among Microsoft insiders that the update was ready by the end of December, and that carriers and OEMs were delaying the rollout to end users.
Besides being a highly delayed update for seemingly must-have capabilities like copy-paste, it turned out that not everyone was able to get the update at once. Compared to iOS updates, this process seemed extremely haphazard. After some very loud complaints about the lack of communication, Microsoft finally started blogging about the update process, and published a table which showed which carrier was pushing updates for the various phones. This table finally made it abundantly clear that the carriers were in fact holding up the update.
iOS updates are delivered on a specific date to every single device, regardless of carrier or country, as long as the device is eligible to get the update. This process has been in place since the very first software update they delivered. The only caveats are, over the years, certain devices have become ineligible for OS updates, and after Verizon introduced the iPhone, updates for the CDMA device are on a slightly different schedule. However, when an iOS update is made available, it is simply that available.
Android updates on the other hand are more sporadic and unpredictable. Google makes an update available for the OS, and then it is up to the OEMs and the carriers to certify that update. Google does not control the process at all, and lets the partners take care of delivering the update. Of course, Google’s Nexus devices get the updates at the time the OS is updated, but pretty much every device besides the Google Nexus devices will have their own schedule for receiving updates.
The beauty of Mango update
One huge surprise when the Mango update rollout was announced, was that almost all the phones across all the countries and all carriers were being updated. All at once! Globally, too. Granted, there are caveats like certain phones and especially phones with a certain firmware were not yet updating, and that it was a phased (throttled) rollout, but it is still incredible that in a matter of months Microsoft has been able to convince OEMs and carriers to cooperate and make this happen.
Unlike iOS where Apple is the OS maker as well as the OEM, Microsoft has to provide a build of the OS to the OEMs to test with, after which it would go to the carrier to test. Microsoft was able to get all the OEMs to synchronize their testing and then have all the carriers complete the testing by the time the update was announced as rolling out. This is incredible and it becomes immediately obvious when you compare it to Android which is much closer in its model than iOS is, to Windows Phone. The charts and table below show that as of September 2011, Android 2.3 and above are still only about 30% deployed. In about 6 months, Android has only been able to get to 30% deployment.
Android version distribution
Android versions – historical
In the update announcement post, Microsoft is promising that in a few weeks, after throttling is disabled, every single existing device will have Mango available to them, across geographies, manufacturers and carriers. So in a matter of a few weeks, presumably, most Windows Phones will be on the latest version of the OS.
After its previous disasters in updates, Microsoft needed to prove that it had the muscle and the organizational setup to get an update rolled out smoothly. This announcement and subsequent reports of ease of applying the updates have proven that the ghastly memories of NoDo update can now be put away. Not only is Windows Phone the prettiest, most efficient and usable mobile operating system with a range of carriers and OEMs to choose from, it is also an OS which updates like it should at once, uniformly, and quickly.
There’s a lot to be excited about Windows Phone coming up in the near (with Nokia) and distant future (with Windows 8 and possible merge of Windows Phone and Windows). As a Windows Phone user, I am glad that this update nightmare is over and cannot wait for what’s next!
Update: Just as I pushed “publish” on this post, I saw this update from Eric Hautala at the Windows Phone Blog, saying that the update is going so well, they are accelerating the rollout. Kudos, once again to everyone who’s behind this amazing turnaround. Remember Microsoft, this is now the new bar! :-)
Update 2: As of October 19, 2011, Microsoft has opened up the updates to generally everybody. This move is ahead of schedule and says a lot about the flawless nature of this update.