Microsoft's decision to stop detailing Windows Phone updates is a bad move

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| January 7, 2012

Seemingly out of nowhere, Microsoft’s Windows Phone has garnered plenty of appeal and attention. At this time last year, no one was really talking about Windows Phone in the brightest light. Sure, it existed, but there wasn’t much to talk about when compared to the likes of Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. But now that has changed a great deal, and the spotlight seems to be focused on Microsoft’s mobile OS. There’s nothing wrong with that, Windows Phone can stand on its own legs. But, the Redmond-based company has made its first huge misstep today, in my opinion, and hopefully it doesn’t lead to further inconsistencies.

Late last night, word came down the pipe that Microsoft had decided to close down the “Where’s my phone update?” page. For those of you out there who don’t own a Windows Phone-based device, let me outline what this page does, even though the title should be pretty self-explanatory. The page’s very existence was meant to outline, in a way that’s both vague and detailed, where a specific phone’s, on a specific carrier, or in a specific region software update is. I say that it’s both vague and detailed because in some instances, the page can outline in perfect language just what stage your update is in within the carrier testing phase, and it’s a great way to know that your update is “coming soon.” It’s also vague because while it was updated, it wasn’t updated as quickly as it probably could have been. Personally, with the HTC Trophy that I’ve got lying around, the “Where’s my phone update?” page was actually a stage behind. I was getting the update to Windows Phone 7.5 Mango when the page was telling me that Verizon was still testing it.

This is just a minor issue, and not a deal breaker in the slightest. The thought is what counts, after all. And I honestly believe that. In a world where updates can mean the difference between customer loyalty and hatred, Microsoft has always had a great position in this regard. The company has always been forthcoming about updates, right from the start, and I believe that has something to do with the mobile operating system’s success. Because Microsoft is straight forward about what’s coming for the software, even if there is a hiccup in the updating process, there usually isn’t a wave of rage aimed at Redmond.

But that’s about to change, at least in one regard. While Microsoft is pretty vague about what’s coming from them regarding updates, they are very clear that they will be shutting down that informative “Where’s my phone update?” page, and I think that’s a very, very bad move. The company says that update information for their phones will be made available on the official Windows Phone website, but they don’t go any further than that. On the contrary, they say that they will not be outlining update information for specific phones, in individual countries, and carriers. So, if I’m interpreting this correctly, we can only expect Microsoft to say an update is “coming soon” for any particular device at some point in the future, and there probably won’t be any other information than that.

This is the wrong move, Microsoft. It’s pretty simple: you were doing the right thing before, being as transparent as you were with updates to your released devices, and now you’re moving in the complete opposite direction. You know as well as anyone else that keeps an ear to the mobile industry that the consumer takes software updates seriously. Almost as seriously as the initial purchase of the phone. They don’t want to have any uneasiness regarding software updates or patches after they buy their phone, especially when other platforms get updates so easily. (And, let’s face it; even Android manufacturers are taking updates to the platform more seriously with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.) This is not the time to start making moves to “go dark” regarding updates, especially not when your platform is starting to really steal some of the attention from other mobile operating systems.