I’m definitely not done making decisions, especially with how awesome and free the Samsung Captivate is probably going to be when I’m ready for my upgrade.  However, in the spirit of this whole me-sharing-my-upgrade-experience thing I wanted to let you in on some of my internal thought process about the long term development of mobile operating systems.  While reading a comment about fragmentation of the Android OS it suddenly dawned on me.  Fragmentation to some extent can’t not happen.  No matter how awesome your new shiny cell phone is it always gets old and looks like poop after a year or so.  Most of us upgrade every two years but many don’t and this is what I’m concerned with.  How long will first generation hardware be able to run current OS versions?  For the iPhone it took about 2.5-3 years for them to stop supporting it.  If you want to count the HTC G1 as an Android starting point then they got left at version 1.6  which was about a year and a half after the phone was released (although Android is bad ass in that they don’t care about you hacking the shit out of your phones and you can put 2.2 on there.) Thinking about Windows Mobile’s legacy support issues and their anti-fragmentation approach to Windows Phone 7 with tight hardware spec’s I realize that unless Microsoft can make some magically upgradable hardware in phones they will eventually have to stop supporting hardware.  How long will it take before Microsoft makes that distinction?  When this happens will we be able to get the updates unofficially?  I know this may seem like too much long term thinking but not everyone gets the newest phone that is out all the time.  When I got my Fuze it was already about a year and a half old (swapped out for the lameness that was the Samsung Epix.)  This is something that matters to me long term because regardless of your choice of device once you start purchasing apps you’re invested in the platform.  Microsoft decided to set me back to square one after at least 100.00$ of applications on Windows Mobile but I don’t want to jump into a sinking ship and shell out all my money again.  Microsoft needs to make sure their upgrade patterns are clear and they’re developing software in such a way that phones can stay current for at least 3 years.  You don’t see a lot of OG iPhones rolling around anymore and supporting 4 hardware models with at least two capacities a piece is a big task.  These aren’t questions I’ve seen asked because no one really knows as far as I’m aware.  Development road maps are one thing but when stuff actually happens is a totally different story.  What do you all think?  How long will it take Microsoft to cut the release model turds loose as new hardware and software updates occur?

4 COMMENTS

  1. I think because of the very strict hardware requirements, WP7 may last longer than some OSs. The baseline hardware today is still pretty much the top end you can get at the moment.

    Microsoft have historically been very good at supporting old hardware and software. WM6.X has been ported to devices like the Himalaya, with relatively minor changes to the OS. This is due to the fact that the core OS (Windows CE) hasn’t really changed. WP7 will most likely stick to the CE7 core for a few years, and I don’t see the driver model changing again any time soon (it changed from CE5.2 to CE6).

    MS are a lot more open than Apple, and since the hardware isn’t made by them, there has to be a lot of flexibility in the way drivers work to allow OEMs to make hardware. Because of this, older drivers will almost certainly work, so even if WP7.6 isn’t officially supported on first gen hardware, it’ll be hackable to run on it.

  2. Or they could just do the same sort of thing apple did when people were being left behind and allow them to upgrade as their phone became obsolete instead of just when the 2 year contract was up.
    for instance there are people with a 1g that upgraded to 3g when it came out and didn’t have a contract upgrade available and paid a fraction of the cost for the new phone.
    something along thoes lines would help fight fragmentation for thoes who actually care about having an up to date device.

    On the other hand there are many people who just Don’t care and are perfectly happy with there 1.6 G1’s or even there 1g iphones.

    Fragmentation isn’t an end all beat all and Android seems to be pulling its way through nicely seeing how they aren’t loosing any marketshare.

  3. IMO it all depends on how innovative the smartphone market continues to be. For a while it had become quite stagnant. Right now we’re seeing a screen size battle but the dust will settle on that within the next 6 months and next will be a processor battle. Given that Microsoft will definitely need to keep revising the baseline specs.

  4. @L3v5y – “The baseline hardware today is still pretty much the top end you can get at the moment.” As of right now you are correct. When these Windows phones begin to come out the dual core Qualcomms will be dropping. So minimum hardware will have officially been doubled shortly after release if not before. API’s for Gyroscopes will not be available upon release, and if I’m remembering correctly, no front facing camera API’s either. There are quite a bit of holes in that “top end you can get” theory. Yes these will be addressed but as they are, how long will the old hardware survive?
    @Murani – “Right now we’re seeing a screen size battle but the dust will settle on that within the next 6 months and next will be a processor battle.” Screen size and screen type. With Samsung’s stranglehold on the OLED market with their attempts to pump out Galaxy S’s there is a huge gap in supply and we could see some manufacturer step up and throw that whole screen battle back into the fray. As far as processors we’ll see. Processor speed also comes at the cost of battery life. Battery technology is the most stagnant shit EVER! Until something changes in the power supply department I don’t expect things to shift much further than these newer dual-core Qualcomms. Plus the upper end of what most desire to accomplish on a cell phone has never required quite that much processing power. Even while running multiple apps, if you start doing much more than our current phones do multitasking wise then you are going to have about 2 hours of battery life max.
    @gmanfuzing – If they offered this I would be highly surprised. With multiple handset manufacturers and the possibility of switching the money your’re spending from say LG to HTC I doubt they would be able to roll over the cost on subsidizing the hardware in the same way. This would kick total ass though!

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