Windows Mobile users complain about upgrade policy

Some customers wish that they could download new operating systems, like iPhone users can

While the answers a Windows Mobile executive provided to questions posted to a Facebook discussion provided very little information, the questions posed by 55 fans hint at what users want in the mobile platform.

Aaron Woodman, director for consumer experiences for Windows Mobile, invited anyone to submit questions about Windows Mobile on a Facebook page. When he began posting answers more than two weeks later, his most common response was along the lines of "nothing to announce."

More interesting, though, are the questions people posted. One common theme is that they want to be able to upgrade their current devices to Windows Mobile 6.5, the updated version of the operating system expected to hit the market later this year. Some, but not all, current generation phones will be upgradeable, and that process typically will be handled by mobile operators.

"I will not fork out another EUR600 [US$800] for a new phone just to get the new software! If HTC/MS will not update the relatively new Touch HD, then this was my last WinMobile device," wrote Michael Deixelberger on the Windows Mobile Facebook page.

He wasn't alone. A number of other people compared Windows Mobile to the iPhone, noting that when Apple updates the phone's software, it pushes it out free to iPhone users.

"If Apple can keep customers happy and devices up to date with features and bug fixes via over-the-air updates, then why can't someone who has been in the business for much longer. Even Nokia manages it better," Matthias Bollwein wrote.

The reason Microsoft offers for not delivering such free upgrades to all users is related to its more complicated relationship with hardware makers and operators.

In the U.S., Apple works with one operator and makes the software and the hardware. By comparison, Microsoft only makes the software, works with all the operators and partners with several hardware vendors.

"The upgrades will be determined by whether the hardware is capable, and then it is a OEM and mobile operator decision on whether or not to offer this and how," Woodman wrote in response to one of the many queries about the upgrade policy.

Not everyone is bothered enough by the policy to switch to another platform. "I typically hold on to a phone for less than two years before it gets replaced.

When Windows Mobile 6.5 is released I'll feel a little left behind because of some of the cool features it has that I won't have, and the desire for it may cause me to replace my phone sooner," said Joel Ivory Johnson in an e-mail interview.

Another Windows Mobile phone user is frustrated about the issue but doesn't see many options.

"It's a bit distressing that something that was released less than a year and a half ago (and that I spent a lot of money on less than six months ago) is now considered 'older,'" John Deweerd wrote on the Facebook page.

Still, Windows Mobile is the only platform he knows of that lets him synch data between his desktop and device directly, rather than over the air, he said in an e-mail interview.

While he used to have Palm devices, he doesn't expect the forthcoming Palm Pre to support direct synching either. That means he may stick with Windows Mobile despite the upgrade policy.

Other questions were about the time frame for the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 and also about the availability of Silverlight on Windows Mobile.

Woodman reiterated that the next operating system will come out in the second half and said that Microsoft is committed to bringing Silverlight to Windows Mobile but won't say when.

Some Windows Mobile users might be disappointed about the answer to another question. Woodman said that Microsoft isn't expecting to build its own Twitter client for the phones, although a third-party developer could do so.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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