Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 damage control is reaching a new stage, with a company executive offering what essentially amounts to a mea culpa on an official Website.
Last week, Microsoft claimed it had begun pushing through the long-awaited NoDo update for its new smartphone platform, which included a long-awaited cut-and-paste feature in addition to improvements to Messaging, WiFi and Outlook. However, some users questioned when the update would actually arrive on their smartphones, prompting Microsoft to release two charts: one for the update status of customers in the United States, the other for those around the world.
According to Microsoft's chart for the United States, three Windows Phone 7 devices are currently in the "testing" phase for both NoDo and the previous February update, which was supposed to pave the way for future software updates. Another two phones were in the "scheduling" phase, with no firm date of arrival.
In theory, scheduling should take 10 days or less, to be followed by a "delivery" stage that could take several weeks before an actual update arrives on the user's smartphone. No U.S. smartphones were even in the delivery stage, though, which led some online pundits to start crying foul.
Some of those cries increased over the weekend, when Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president and director of Windows Phone program management, appeared on the company's Channel 9 Website to talk about the upcoming MIX11 conference. During the conversation, he suggested the Windows Phone 7 update process was well under way, comments that led to a flurry of angry commenters.
That rising tide forced Belfiore to walk back his comments, in a March 27 posting on the Channel 9 comments section.
"People were officially getting it, the success rate of its deployment on real-world phones was looking good, and we were happy that the process had started well," he wrote. "Still-these are not the same as all of you getting it and I'm sorry that I came across as insensitive to that fact."
Microsoft is apparently seeking greater engagement with the carriers over a firmer release date for the updates. "We know the table would benefit greatly from more detail, and we are hoping to add more to it by working with the operators who own the -testing' phase to get more clarity," he added. "If your phone is shown in -scheduling,' it'll be worth checking the table next week."
Microsoft's troubles with updates extend beyond this current brouhaha. The February update stalled a small number of users' smartphones and led to roughly two days' worth of drama on Microsoft's online help forums. In the wake of that, Microsoft seemed more cautious in how it proceeded with NoDo, even pushing the release date back from the first two weeks of March to the latter half of the month.
"After careful consultation with the team and our many partners, we've decided to briefly hold the March update in order to ensure the update process meets our standards and that of our customers," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a March 10 e-mail to eWEEK. "As a result, we will begin delivering the update in the latter half of March."
That led to a bust of anger on many online forums, including eWEEK's comments section.
"Does Microsofft have trouble attracting competent employees?" wrote one commenter on a Windows Phone 7 article from last week. "Why are they moving so slowly? I'm ashamed to be an early adopter, having been fooled into thinking Microsoft was serious about mobile this time."
The updating issues also threaten to counter Microsoft's earlier claim that the tightly enforced Windows Phone 7 platform will avoid the fragmentation and inconsistent software updating that helped wreck the now-antiquated Windows Mobile platform. If Windows Phone 7 becomes similarly disjointed, with various devices running different versions of its software, then Microsoft executives' attacks on rival Android as too fragmented will become something of an irony.