With the holidays and CES now officially out of the way, the great beast, that is Microsoft, is slowly beginning to wake up again to kick off 2015. Already the company has launched a new phone (the ultra budget Nokia 215).
All eyes are now on the January 21 event on Microsoft's campus, including what it means for Windows Phone.
Phone Insider and real beta testing
By now, most people have connected the dots with the weekend release of the Phone Insider app. Since October 2013, Windows Phone users had the option for Preview for Developer program, an early peek at the new OS updates before they go to the carrier. When Windows 10 for desktop announced, those users got a similar program dubbed 'Windows Insider'.
Obviously, these two things are nearly the same idea, just a different name. The notion that Microsoft would align these two programs – with Insider taking priority – should not be a surprise. Of course, this is unlikely just a name change too, as Windows Insider users get both fast and slow ring updates, depending on preference.
Microsoft's Gabriel Aul recently "confirmed" that the Phone Insider app is more than something internal to the company. In a briefly worded tweet, Aul, who has become the public face of the Windows 10 team, noted "We'll talk more about the Phone Insider app on 1/21."
I mean, at this point, the writing is on the wall. Microsoft is apparently getting ready to announce and release a preview version of Windows 10 for Mobile/Phone on January 21.
Perhaps the downside of this Insider program is, like Windows 10 for desktop, the version of Windows 10 for phone may be a very early release of the OS. Microsoft Preview for Developer versions were not 'beta' releases, they were finalized builds released before the carrier approval process. Windows Phone Insider though may be a whole different bag with OS builds that are truly 'beta'.
Where is GDR2 (and what was it anyway)?
One thing I have noticed is that some people are really hooked on names. So even though Microsoft publicly never mentioned Windows Phone 8.1 GDR2, many were wondering where it is in 2015. Indeed, we were the first to report that Windows Phone 8.1 was to get two releases way back in April of last year.
As noted at the time, GDR1 and GDR2 was primarily focused on the nascent 3D Touch gesture system. It was an OS update timed for the release of McLaren, the 'flagship' Windows Phone that was to grace many carriers in the fall of 2014.
Of course, McLaren got canceled. No 3D Touch phone, less need to have that aspect of the OS build out there. No one is too sure what was on the whole release plate for GDR2 in addition that main feature. However, since GDR1 came out, there have been no fewer than four more updates to the OS, bringing a couple of new features like Data Toggle, Battery Saver Live Tile, Update scheduler, and other stability fixes.
Personally, I am not sure what the big deal is since we have had four updates (build 14219 was the last) and no one really knows what was supposed to be in GDR2 that we are missing. I guess I am missing the part where any of this is 'news' exactly. If McLaren was dependent on GDR2 and there is no more McLaren…
Interestingly, the latest public build of the OS is build 14226 , which can be found on some Lumia 535s and even my Lumia 930, which I obtained from Microsoft recently. This release suggests that some OS updates – at least on the official branch – are still in the pipeline, likely part of the ongoing Denim push. Whether this is GDR2 or something else, I am not sure.
To my knowledge, GDR2 is not canceled, it is just not as 'big' as GDR1, especially as resources go into Windows 10.
Wait and see
Finally, since the Microsoft event is only nine days away, I think we can all hold out a bit longer to see what Microsoft has in store. I think it is a bit dangerous to keep throwing rumors and unconfirmed hints out there that may eventually contradict what actually happens.
It should be clear that the consumer side of Windows 10, including mobile and phone, is on the agenda at this point, and that should be good enough to hold people over for the next week. In terms of new phones, no one to my knowledge is expecting any new hardware to be revealed. After all, this is about the OS, not new phones. Things like Mobile World Congress is ideal for new budget phones, while Microsoft's Build in April seems appropriate for talking about new high-end devices.
We'll just have to wait and see. Surprises are good, so just roll with it.
Pay attention to Windows Central on January 21 as we will be live at the Microsoft event, live blogging what happens, delivering interviews and getting at the nitty gritty.