Between Windows Phone 8 and Blue lies a path of more frequent updates

With yesterday’s alleged leak of HTC’s next Windows Phone, one of its eyebrow raising aspects was the use of “GDR2” when identifying the OS. The term was new nomenclature for those who follow Microsoft’s update cycles and product code names. Now, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley has learnt of its meaning and Paul Thurrott helps put it into focus.

The term GDR2 stands for “General Distribution Release” with the two denoting its sequence. The first GDR was “Portico” (build 10211), which was delivered starting at the end of December by Nokia (AT&T Lumia 920) and continuing within the last few weeks for the Lumia 810, 820 and HTC 8X devices on various carriers.

The big picture of these new updates is something we spoke about on the last podcast: there will be more frequent but smaller OS updates on Windows Phone 8 over the next 8-12 months before “Blue” is released.

Windows Phone Blue is the next milestone for the OS although details about its contents are few and far between. The most we know at this point is that it will bring Windows 8, RT and Windows Phone closer together for users and developers, including possibly a unified “Store”. Whether that means Windows Phone apps can run on Windows RT or instead the developers can “package” their Phone and RT apps together remains to be seen.

In addition to GDR2, expected to ship this summer, there is also reportedly a GDR3 OS release. Once again details of what it contains or addresses are not known publicly.  Regarding the phrase “Apollo+”, Mary Jo Foley’s source(s) and our own have said that it is not an actual name, although it was briefly used to talk about post-Windows Phone 8 OS updates. Thurrott notes that GDR1-3 can be collectively thought of as Apollo+.

Regarding Windows Phone Blue, the timing could even slip to 2014, although that too has not been confirmed.

What this all means for the platform is that the OS will get more frequent updates and, more importantly Microsoft won’t announce OS updates months in advance before their release. Indeed ever since Windows Phone 7.5 we’ve heard murmurs that some on the team were not pleased with the long time frame between February and mid-summer before phones began receiving the update.  There was too much pressure to ship and Microsoft had revealed all their cards to their competitors regarding forthcoming features.

Now, the approach appears to have shifted to keeping future feature updates more closely guarded but delivering those updates more frequently. Since “Portico” did not change the name Windows Phone 8 i.e. they didn’t call it Windows Phone 8.1, there’s reason to believe that Redmond will keep these updates as just build revisions, but not an OS rebranding.

Source: ZDNet, Win Supersite, PCMag

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • First and very excited
  • Way late but have you thought of Xbox running RT? And WP and RT being able to cross emulate. Interesting.
  • Sorry for thread-hijacking but this is somewhat 'important'.
    During WP8 press conference last summer there was talk about an 'enthusiast' program where people could signup to get updates before they were released through their carrier, this would possibly void warranties but would allow for faster updates.
    What happened to this program?  Did Microsoft decide to say one thing but then later decide not to implement (as seems to be the general habit lately)?
  • I think Microsoft is hoping we forgot about that announcement.
  • I was just thinking about it myself, official updates through carriers are fine if I'll have the ability to take care of it myself from Microsoft website. Give us the choice.
    More frequent minor improvements are great but it's weird since this year's Blue is already close on the horizon (to keep it simple I'll number them to easier distinguish the versions - 8.0 Apollo in November, 8.1 Portico in December, upcoming 8.2 in April/May, 8.3 in July ? 8.5 Blue in September ?). I was hoping that the Blue update rollout would start in the summer followed by a small fix later this year.
  • Did he not say in the article that Blue won't be here possibly till 2014?
  • That's disappointing. Waiting for tighter integration between WP8, RT, and Windows 8 until the end of the year or later isn't encouraging because this cross platforming was something people were hoping WP8 was going to be all about at the beginning
  • That's how Microsoft and Nokia take Windows Phone... Windows Phone 7 = this is WP, our new badass OS! WP 7.5 Mango = forget about 7 now this is the real thing! WP 8 = now we have the real thing, you just need to buy a new device!!! :DDD And wait for WP Blue this will be the real thing we promise!
  • I wish Verizon would push the update out to the 822.
  • Lol!
  • No kidding.
  • No kidding...obnoxious that it's taking this long for them to release it.
  • What update?!?
  • Portico.
  • I much prefer this method of updating and notification. I don't think most users need to know months in advance about an upcoming update. Just announce something via the blog and notify through user through phone updated mechanism email or SMS when the update is available.
    The added benefit is the keeping your cards close to your vest. This also gives weight to the fact phones will be released in a roll out fashion and no big platform update launch that all OEMs wait for. A big benefit to the platform and the users.
  • MThe downside is that OEMs have a hard time with this. If MS wants a variety of OEMs they have to respect the differences in time it takes those OEMs to go to market. If the focus is one big milestone releases then companies like Nokia will maintain their advantage. They'll be able to deliver current hardware, faster so they will be able to adapt so taht they always release hardware cycles with software cycles. If you dont release at the milestone then you wont sell many phones. Think of Sony... They are dying because by the time they turn the concept to reality, the hardware is outdated. I'm not saying helping Nokia is a bad thing, I just think it comes with its challenges
  • That sounds good to me
  • The more the merrier there are lots of improvements WP8 needs.. I heard Mary Jo on windows weekly say that the blue update for WP8 was behind schedule so no surprise. Hope we don't have to wait for blue for WPCentral wish list for improvements though....
  • Reading this made me more happy that i chose wp8 over other
  • Agreed. Microsoft rocks!
  • They only rock if they actually do it.  And if, unlike past updates, things actually get better instead of a mix of better and worse.  Every update since NoDo has included as many compromises as enhancements.  I would say it is equivocal whether WP runs better today or a year would depend on your needs.
    For instance, if you need to work with Office binary files, your life is a lot harder than it used to be.  And a huge number of mobile Websites that used to work (like the essential no longer do.
  • Yes!!!!!!!
  • Not really excited. OS updates are still tied to carriers and manufacturers. It will be a crapshoot when you'll get any update. I know this is a stretch for an example, but I hope it drives the point home: I had to manually update my Samsung Focus to 7.8. I used all only Microsoft's cab updates. This was beyond stupid and shows that though they share the same platform and architecture, phones get unequal treatment that I equate to Android and old Windows Mobile.
  • Hopefully along with this change they will also make the distinction between updates that require manufacturer or operator approval and ones that don't. If it's a cosmetic update it likely doesn't need to go through the manufacturer (and definitely not the operator); most backend updates should go to the manufacturer, but usually not the operator; only updates that affect interactivity with the network should require operator approval.
  • Agreed. I think those update levels you describe are needed, though I think they should be used only rarely. Fundamental carrier operation should not really need to be changed. Perhaps something like Visual Voicemail needs to be approved. However, that confuses me. That shouldn't need to be compiled into the OS, or be enabled by default. It should be a Microsoft add-on of sorts that could be enabled or disabled by the carrier.
    Backend updates that affect how the OS runs on a manufacturer's hardware should be limited to things that require new drivers or firmware interaction.
    Perhaps there are answers to my questions/concerns, but Microsoft was not vocal about these changes during/after the Portico rollout. All I really heard was they were tailoring the update for each phone. That's what really concerned me, what are you customizing?!
    Anyway, thanks for the good ideas.
  • Yeah, I'll believe these "frequent" updates when I see them. Portico was released 2 months ago and some people are still waiting.  It's a good thing we have unofficial ways (at least those of us on WP7.x do).
  • Yup! I miss that about Windows Phone 7. You can just take care of it yourself!
  • That's why I went with the 920 on at&t. Nokia devices on at&t seem to get updated promptly.
  • Might be why they got the exclusivity of the 920 for a while (to negotiate a better update rollout). Good move by Nokia if in fact true, cause AT&T have been terrible with the updates in the past (AT&T Titan to name one famous on these forums for no updates).
  • Never get a Samsung
  • Hope the 'other' problem in storage memory will get fixed. Mine is now 6+ GB and growing. I can hardly use my 8x which has 16 in total.
  • Download Shrink Storage from the Store. It helps lower that section.
  • Shrink Storage really helped, cleand 5GB. Thanks for the tip.
  • I didn't know about this app but it freed up about 270MB of storage space; It's Somthing...
  • Never heard of this app. Going to give it a try.
  • It gave me 250mb which is great but I'm still sitting at 7.5GB with barely any apps or media installed.  Fixing the Other debacle needs to be objective #1.  The problem is only getting worse as people buy the phones and use them.  
  • Try deleting your browser history. That is the main source of the memory usage.
  • Try cleaning out adobe? I mean adobe is the app that takes the most space in my phone with documents. But yeah, I'm still using my L900 until something with either 64GB+ or 32GB+ w/ MicroSD.
  • "and continuing within the last few weeks for the Lumia 810, 820, 822 and HTC 8X devices on various carriers."  Where's the 822 update?  I ain't seen no update! 
  • Also, according to other sources (and WPCentral) the HTC 8X, Lumia 820 started rollout in December like the 920, not just in the past few weeks.

  • That I already knew. ;)  I was only speaking of my particular phone, which was mentioned in the quote.
  • I can't seem to find any sources at this moment for the Lumia 822 getting Portico. :(
    However this source dated 22nd February, says no word yet from Nokia.
    "As of now, there is still no word on when the Portico update will be pushed out to Nokia Lumia 822 users, but this is Verizon so we are not holding our breath."
    My guess is you're waiting on Verizon :/
    EDIT: Looks like this article has been updated to reflect that the 822 may not be receiving Portico at this time.
  • You still are not getting the sarcasm that was contained in my original post.  Yes, I know the 822 hasn't recieved the update.  Yes, I know there has been no word about the update from my carrier or Nokia.  No, the article you linked to did not state that the 822 might not be getting the update.  The exact words on that article were "but this is Verizon so we are not holding our breath".  In other words, the author was expressing his opinion and nothing more. 
    Back to my original comment, I was simply giving Daniel a good rub for mentioning the one phone in that list that has not recieved the update in any form. 
  • I got what you were saying, I was just commenting on the other factually incorrect content in that SAME sentence, but I guess you missed that too.
    Edit: Can see where you got confused (in regards to no update). I meant this WPCentral article had been updated and that it was at this time, NOT it wouldn't ever get.
  • So what does GDR actually stand for? I know it *means* General Maintenance Release, but it stands for General Dxxxxx Release.
  • Typo. General Distribution Release.
  • Ah! That makes more sense. Cheers :)
  • Zune wouldn't update my unlocked 800...had to use the disconnect trick to get 7.8. Now that is pretty stupid.
  • That's because the 7.8 rollout has been halted for now. This article refers to WP8.
  • It never prompted me for it on my 800. The att 900 got it first which doesn't make much sense given the customizations.
  • If they can unify all the platforms, this could propel wp8 to high market share levels.  Imagine being able to download an app once and have it work on all three platforms.  As for movies, purchase once, all three platforms.  I thought this was the vision of MS based on what they had been saying, but from what i see, the platforms are still somewhat disconnected.  I hate i have to buy seperate apps for each platform and i dont like how i can purchase movies on smartphones.  At least buy it on my xbox and then also have it work on my phone, why movies are not an option on phones is an odd thing to me. 
  • Don't hold your breath. They've been talking up the three screen vision for 10 years now.
  • that's nice to hear...
  • Always felt MS was wrong to announce OS updates way in advance, giving competitors a chance to respond. Hope this will change from the future onwards.
  • Updates Smaller than Portico? How do you do that, Not fix anything? Blue not until 2014? Somebody could pull Web OS out of mothballs and get ahead of MS. Wp8 was not ready and it will be years before it is. Ubinto (sp) will take third away from WP before MS gets it figured out.
  • Ubuntu
  • Thank you. Couldn't remember how it was spelled.
  • Long time Microsoft supporter here, but based on Microsoft's performance on Mobile computing I wouldn't bet against your predictions. In fact, odds are that you'll be proven correct... by Microsoft.
  • GDR1 (Portico) started rolling 1.5 months after WP8 was released and is still rolling out. In 2 months, GDR2 will be ready to roll out. After that GDR3 and then WP Blue in Autumn. I would bet against his predictions. In fact, odds are that he'll be proven wrong... by Microsoft.
  • I'll believe that when I see it.
  • It'll be interesting to see how this turns out. I for one would be pleasantly surprised if you're right, however I honestly believe such faith in the MS group in charge of Windows Phone is misplaced. Their track record since Windows Mobile days, and more recently with the Zune desktop client / Xbox music debacle speaks volumes.
  • Is GDR like CR was for WP7.x?
  • I guess its more between Mango and Tango
  • Didn't some 8Xs receive the update in December? It was mainly Verizon dragging its knuckles over here.
  • Yeah. I've mentioned that above too.
  • And bell in Canada, ditched my 8x for the Samsung ativ s which came loaded with portico, for the record, it wasn't because I didn't like the HTC.
  • As Mary Jo Foley called it, it's a "shut up and ship" mantra... and I won't lie, I want them to do exactly that... ship it already!
    Frankly, I'd rather have monthly updates/fixes. Each month pick a big thing and a few small things and push them out... just like Windows Updates.
  • +1
  • +100
    And no OEM and carriers involvement in the process... This is the way to win hearts and minds.
  • Absolutely what I want too, but carriers would go ballistic. I'm almost happy they agreed to this three month schedule. Ultimately, MS should be able to ship an update any day they want and as often as they want AND every device should get it that same day!
  • This is definitely a much better method.
  • What does "frequent" mean exactly? One update per 3 months? Or 6 months? We are 3 months from the last update already and a lot things are still broken.
  • Agreed...
  • Haven't even got the last one yet
  • but but Why Can't I love Windows Phone?
  • Wow, what a lame and vague piece that is.
  • That's putting it nicely.
  • How do you respond to someone who can't grasp the concept of unpinning the office tile?  Something about unfolding a flower.  What did I just read?  
  • It's zdnet so of course they'll say that. So what else is new.
  • Here's to hoping after Blue, Windows Phone becomes a part of Patch Tuesday and bypass carriers and OEM on non-hardware updates.
  • Extremely doubtful
  • Regrettably...
  • This will start putting more distance between WP 7.xx and 8+
  • All well and good but all for naught if the carriers are the bottle neck.
  • The BIG question is will at&t allow these updates? As much as I hate HTC for not insisting that at&t push updates, I loathe at&t as well. I will never buy an at&t non-nokia carrier locked WP phone again until MS has a heart to heart talk wit at&t.
  • All for more frequent updates, those buying new phones will have better software, existing owners will get better features and performance, keep it close and keep em guessing, Microsoft finally learning how to play poker
  • Good news!
  • Finally! Hopefully they will start fixing some of the major and small (but still very annoying) flaws!
  • It must be nice because I still haven't received crap on my Lumina 822.
  • And you'll never receive anything at all either now or the future since the Lumina 822 does not exist ;)
  • Yes it does, its a Verizon exclusive.
  • Ohhhh...
  • As people have said, why can't they just release smaller updates more frequently? Windows gets updates through for little things as and when they're ready and unless they were lying at the presentations, Windows Phone is now set up to do exactly the same so why wait?
    Update/Add/Fix a feature and just release it without any fuss.
    I was lucky enough to get Portico pushed to my 8X before Christmas (no idea what stars aligned for that to happen!) but two months later I've not had any more updates and quite frankly there should have been at least one.
    When there are still so many functional gaps and bugs in the OS there should be a new update every month that fixes them. Summer isn't good enough.
    I do feel sorry for the Windows Phone team though, they spent all their time after Mango pretty much just porting WP to NT, and now they've done that they have to carry on merging with Windows RT. I don't think they've actually had much time to focus on the user experience of the OS over the technical aspects of it for a long time now.
  • I know all dates are fluid, but that source article about HTC Tiara at talks about the phone hitting retail around mid-May.
  • I think mid-May is about right because according to Mary Jo Foley's insider, GDR2 will be ready in two months time.
  • I'm satisfied with their new approach to updates and keeping these a bit closer to the chest.  But imo, Microsoft should have had something to reveal at MWC.  Btw, did anyone from WP Central actual talk to a Windows Phone team member?
  • i just have one quick question.. what about the notification center that was supposed to be coming to windows phone?
  • It will come, we just don't know when.
  • Hay wzzap winfan and aubrey
  • Wzzap :)
  • Wassup
  • Portico arrived on my samung SGH-T899M right out of the box. 
  • Again, Blue is a ode name that means nothing at the moment and anypne who knows something real has signed a NDA. The fact that people refer to it speculatively for Windows Phone 8 and definitively for Windows 8 does not mean that there is any convergence. It simply means they are standardizing update cycles at some point in the future but it means nothing for current update cycles nor does it mean anything of merit regarding the various platforms. .  Anythng beyond that is purely speculation from people who want hits on their sites and people who ascribe significance to their speculations will be the first to show up whining that Microsoft didn't deliver the stuff they never promised. BTW, an even cursory of WP 7 updates would demonstrate it already had a pretty rapid update cycle, and anyone using Surface RT knows that there have already been major updates including multiple firmware upgrades. All this is at this point is still a speculation and rumor fest posing as news.
  • I think the whole google EAS fiasco pretty much guaranteed an update will come out within the next 6 months. So this talk of smaller updates has a lot of merit.
  • Better than nothing...
  • so we have to wait until 2014 for a notification centre?
  • Probably.
  • I'll believe it when I see it. Microsoft has been making me angry lately with how slow they are.
  • Lucky you that's been feeling angry lately. Microsoft has been slow on Windows Phone since the beginning.
  • But my 822 still doesn't have Portico. C'mon, Verizon...
  • Parts of the OS could be apps that update separately from the rest of the OS. With a fallback option if anything goes wrong. Seems daft that the browser cant be updated until the whole OS is.
  • Updates take WAY too long! We need small updates every week the way the OS looks at the moment. Why don't they fix the little things first so that it will give a better impression for new users and give less to compare about to IOS and android. Man every now and then I get so fired up with this. What do they do all day?
  • After receiving the stiff one eye from Big Red over Portico, I really hope that they can untie updates from carriers.  There is no reason my phone should not have Portico at this point.  If Verizon is standing in the way of my update, I should be able to circumvent this and update on my own (there should also be a way to turn group MMS back on since VZW disabled that as well).  A way to 'Unlock' the 822 and update it without having to beat it out of VZW would be wonderful.
  • Okay I got the update so where and how do I create ringtones out of my MP3s?
  • Everyone on here complaining that they havent recived it yet, what state are you guys in? I'm in Texas and I received mine around 5 p.m.
  • I think they will release Windows Phone 8.1 together with Windows 8.1, underlining how they are holding hands in the Microsoft ecosystem.