Microsoft is set to support both Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 until 2014, according to the company's website. The website has detailed dates for when the company is planning to halt support and cease security update rollouts (much like the Windows desktop operating system). It's a positive sign for all Windows Phone owners as their smartphones will continue to receive updates for many months to come.
Should you own a Windows hone 7.x device, you'll be eligible for security updates until September 9th, 2014. If you're running the latest version of Windows Phone, Microsoft will be wrapping up update support on July 8th, 2014. The Microsoft page detailing the support lifecycle also states the following:
"Microsoft will make updates available for the Operating System on your phone, including security updates, for a period of 18 months after the lifecycle start date. Distribution of the updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your phone. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and hardware capabilities."
So what does all this mean for consumers?
You're set to receive update notifications on your Windows Phone (regardless whether it's 7.8 or 8) until 2014. Those on older hardware will have upgrade to then take advantage of future major releases, while Windows Phone 8 devices should see the next major version of Windows Phone, which will then kick off another support cycle.
As well as updates for Windows Phone 8, it's speculated that Windows Phone 7.8 isn't the end for legacy hardware. A leaked slide from a Nokia presentation (see above) shows another potential update that's set to roll out after Windows Phone 7.8. Microsoft hasn't revealed anything as-of-yet, so we'll remain hopeful that it's not the end of the road for Windows Phone 7.
Said updates are stated to be possibly under the control of mobile operators and / or hardware manufacturers. Availability may vary by country, region and hardware capabilities. With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft will be able to further take advantage of OTA (over-the-air) updates, enabling consumers to update their Windows Phones without plugging devices into computers.