Some details emerge about future Windows Phone 8 update program for enthusiast users

WP Central

Getting updates on Windows Phone 7 so far has been a mixed bag for consumers. On the one end, they’re basically simple, universal OS patches in the form of CAB files, allowing even early prototype phones to keep upgrading, years after release.

On the other end, they’ve been just awful due to the lack of carrier support in actually rolling them out to end-users. The process is still much better than whatever Android has to offer but it still pales compared to the iPhone in many ways.

Regardless, Microsoft is well aware of the problem and during the June Summit, Corporate Vice President on the Windows Phone team briefly described the proposed method to “fix” this problem in the future. No, Microsoft is not forcing carriers to push out the updates—something that carriers would not stand for, nor does Microsoft have the clout—but rather he mentioned a system for “enthusiast” users to manually update their phones.

The program sounds a lot like the current so-called “CAB method” whereby you simply patch the OS with Microsoft’s own software. The program today though is a little “hacky” and not streamlined for normal consumers. The new program is presumably different.

Now at the site Windows Phone Italy, they claim to have some inside information on the coming process. Details are scarce but here is what they've learned:

  • Only Windows Phone 8.x devices will be supported
  • You will use Microsoft Account to login
  • Users can get updates before their carrier has released them (or plans to in some case)
  • It’s a “pull” method (as opposed to 'push')

The news is unverified by outside sources and Microsoft has not officially confirmed to us the above details, but none of that should be particularly surprising, especially the part about needing Windows Phone 8. That latter requirement is because the new OS will be better suited to engage with Microsoft’s infrastructure to gain access to these updates.

In some ways, this "news" is just recapitulating what we already know, as you can verify from Terry Myerson's speech below.

Questions remain of course on who gets access, how to apply, will all phones be supported (presumably they will) and all those other pesky specifics.

Our gut tells us right now Microsoft is focused on just getting Windows Phone 8 out the door and this “enthusiast update program” will get detailed later on as it the first update nears.

Source: Windows Phone Italy

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Daniel, typo in the title. deetails.
  • nope... intentional
  • lol, I wish it were...having a bad day with CMS, Chrome, YouTube embedding and codes in that got past spell check is beyond me. Fixed.
  • Shouldn't you be using IE 10 on W8? 
  • Should I? I had no idea what my job requirements were. I thought it was overseeing content on this stie, not what browser I choose to run. /sarcasm I use what works for me and our CMS. IE10 has some issues on the backend and I have not upgraded to W8 yet because I simply don't have the time to backup my Lenovo, make sure all the drivers are there, etc. PS I'm not sponsored by Microsoft to use all of their products. Some I use, some I don't. If MS wants to pay me to promote all of their products...well, I'd turn it down because that would be unethical. 
  • +1 for integrity!
  • +1
  • Just out of curiosity could you describe IE10's issues? I haven't had any so far, but I would like to know about them. I was planning on upgrading my family I would like to know about any issues. (I have W8 Ent RTM)
  • Wow, I thought you were just giving him a hard time.  He read you like a trashy novel.
  • WP Central users should be automatically entered in this program!
  • +1
  • That would be easy, wouldn't it ?
  • I wonder wy can't they just do it like apple does?
    And a typo below the video ( should be how DO you apply) I guess.
  • Because the carriers will tell Microsoft to do one. WinPho isn't yet a "must have device" iPhone is though and networks would be stupid to not range it, so Apple can essentially do what ever they want
  • Ok but if microsoft pushes out their own updates wouldn't that make the carriers unhappy, or is it such a small group of ppl that will actually do that so they won't care. And would that void carrier warranty or something?
  • Carriers insist on testing the software to make sure it doesn't break their network. For all they know, MS did something that will cause issues both for consumers (unstable devices) or interfere with their network. In the end, it's your carrier who bought and sold you the phone to use on their network. Microsoft does neither.
  • But let's be realistic... has there ever been an incident where this has happened? I can't say I've ever heard of an incident. I think it's purely a matter of financial incentive. Why devote resources to development and support for an aging device that doesn't sell well?
  • There was the Yahoo mail bug last year that caused unusually high data usage.
  • If apple can do it so should winpho.And not all upgrades are network related. But if microsoft will do that what you wrote I am happy.
  • "If apple can do it so should winpho"
    But this is the real world, not made up land where things "should" be a certain way. Microsoft currently has about 2.5% market share. On what grounds to they have any leverage to demand anything from carriers? Look, Apple is and will remain the ONLY exception between carriers and hardware/software. It won't happen again and you cannot use them as a basis for Microsoft. Apple makes and sells phones, Microsoft does neither.  Fact is, the carriers hate the Apple model and they will not allow it to happen again. If Android is this bad and they own the global market, don't expect Microsoft to curry any favors. 
  • That makes sense! I think its just wishfull thinking. Anyway if we can upgrade manually that's almost the same for me and lots of wpcentral readers I guess.
  • I understand it won't happen but Windows Mobile was carrier updated and the iPhone came out after WM.  When the iPhone launched they did not have the majority market share yet they got this deal.  I'll be happy when I see this program come to life.
  • IPhone is Apple branded and they've shown the iMac and iPod.
    Hyperbolically speaking, Jobs can spit on things and it turns to gold, a warranted success. Even before release the hype is also very high, unlike WP that still get the MS hate and strong influential bad raps about its lackings.
  • Trust me, I would love if Microsoft made phones. Have you ever owned any of Microsoft hardware ? It's some of the best stuff out there and best warranty.
    After seeing what they put in to the Surface devices and their past hardware, If Microsoft came out with a phone, I would not even look at Nokia or HTC.
  • You mean something like this?
  • I understand your point, but I think most users who read this site, which I believe makes up a large portion of WP users will use this option to bypass the carriers. Is it really the OS updates or the firmware updates, such as radios, etc from OEM's that can "break" carriers networks? I've heard a similar response from an att exec that I know, I am still really suspect to this as just that person towing the party line. In the end its always about money.
  • Not according to tmobile. They still don't have iPhone. Which is good as I hate anything apple.
  • Microsoft has to deal with multiple OEMs therefore different combinations of hardware which makes updating phones hard, where as Apple just has the iPhone to focus on.
  • This is how it should be. I am tired of being at the mercy of the Carrier. Win for Windows Phone.
  • I hope this is true. I'm on Tmobile UK with the Omnia7 I still suffer from my keyboard vanishing
  • The perfect foil for at&t's glacial pace at releasing updates. I'm in! :)
  • Sorry if I misread this. I thought starting with 7.8 or WP8 MS was bypassing carriers and uploading patches themselves? Is this something different?
  • 7.8 is separate and details on that are scarce too. This is for WP8 going forward where every update can in theory be applied to any device with ease, whereas 7.8 is probably the last and final update for 7.x.
  • 7.8 is not the last update. It is the last "upgrade". Updates to fix issues will still come. Am I wrong?
  • No one actually knows at this point. But it is presumptuous and perhaps naive to believe that we will see any more upgrades or updates. Just look at the Titan II on AT&T. 
  • That's a common misconception. The quote you are referring to was in reference to Windows 8, not Windows Phone 8. Basically, MS said that they aren't going to let the carriers get in the way of Windows 8 updates on, for example, tablets that are sold for use on specific carriers' networks.
    Reading between the lines, I would hazard a guess that there might just be some carrier specific/exclusive RT tablets coming out with built in WWAN connectivity. Basically tablets being sold using the same model as phones as opposed to the current model where they just take an off-the-shelf device and slot in a WWAN card and subsidize it.
    Edit: I cannot, for the life of me, find the original quote now. It's all buried in Google with talk about WP 7.8 bypassing carriers and Win8 upgrades now. I still believe the original quote did say Windows 8 though.
  • making nerds n noobs happy at the same time :)
  • It's about freaking time... finally we'll all be able to get updates without worrying which carriers will "push" out the updates. In other words, to paraphrase Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost... "AT&T CAN SUCK IT!"
  • Random question, do we know if it will be possible for us enthusiasts to "flash" our current phones (lumia 900) to windows phone 8? Such that we continue getting updates beyond 8 and not just stopping at 7.8?
  • Doubtful. The only way I can see that this MIGHT be possible is if someone figures out a way to unlock the Lumia bootloader and the fine chaps at XDA are able to hack together a custom ROM. Even then I think that the secure boot feature of the new kernel will keep that from happening.
  • Would have been usefull more than once for wp7. Great news !
  • Damn Daniel. I guess I misinterpreted what was said at the keynote. I was under the impression that with windows phone 8, they were going to bypass carriers to do over the air updates. It makes sense with our current structure of carriers in the US that it wouldn't be so. My excitement got the best of me.
  • That's what I heard too, but I think OTA updates probably meant firmware updates without connecting to a computer
  • Do we know if this process will be for final-release updates that carriers just haven't made available (or are staging), or for pre-release updates, or both?
    I love the idea of being able to get release-quality updates as soon as they are available, but I am wary of running pre-release updates on my personal device.
  • It will be nice to have something like this
  • This is something I never understood with smartphone updates vs. updates for the short lived carrier subsidized 3G netbooks.  MSFT/the hardware manufacturer/other crap software could update the netbook software, BIOS, drivers, etc without any carrier input. How is it that an OS on a smartphone is any different?
  • Because the models are different. Phones are locked into specfic carriers and are usually customized for that carrier. If an OEM refuses to give the carrier controls over the updates, the carrier can simply refuse to carry it. Since the bulk of the sales come through the carrier, either directly or through a 3rd party seller, the OEMs basically don't have a choice.
    The subsidized netbooks on the other hand aren't sold in the same model. For one, they weren't carrier specific. You just had a standard model with a WWAN card appropriate to whichever carrier it was installed. Carriers represented only a VERY small portion of those sales. If a carrier refused to sell it, the OEM could afford to shrug and say, "Well, whatever." Also, if a carrier got it in their head to refuse updates and users got hit by an exploit that started sending out deluges of spam or taking part in a DDOS attack, guess whose network is getting congested. 
  • They also do it because they want to dig their heels into every part of any industry, the carriers are scared shitless of becoming dumb pipes that everyone wants and needs them to be. So they bully OEMs to create specific phones as if they know what people want, and they get in between phone updates to act as if the consumer needs them for quality assurance testing. It's the reasoning behind why they do most of what they do... Why do you think they're forcing unlimited texting and calling with their shared data plans?
  • OK, it's been over  6 months since the Windows Phone "Enthusiasts" Program was announced.  Where is it?  Why the cone of silence?  Another example of Microsoft over promising and under delivering.
  • Oops....i wanted WP 8.1