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Windows Phone 8 Revealed, current WinPhone users left in the cold

  • Nokia Lumia buyers left out
  • Current handsets will get stop-gap Windows Phone 7.8
  • Follows on the preview of Microsoft's Surface Tablet
Written by Adam Wajnberg

Planned obsolescence, or even unplanned obsolescence, is not new. It’s an inevitability that your current bit of kit will eventually be too slow, weak or stupid to deal with software paradigm changes a few years down the road. But sometimes the window of opportunity is so short that it feels like a massive punch in the gut.

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Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8 today, in the same week they previewed their (potentially  fantastic) Surface tablet due later this year. As updates go, it’s a big one – Windows 8 will be capable of running on phones twice as powerful as those currently available, and will incorporate NFC, Online payments, advanced maps, expanded storage and much much more. It also looks fantastic, evolving the ‘Metro’ theme and further blurring the line between Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

windows phone 8

Alas, early adopters of Windows Phone will be left out. The current range of handsets that run Windows Phone 7.5 (“Mango”) include Samsung’s Omnia line and HTC’s Titan lines. But it’s the range from Nokia, the Lumia (encompassing 600, 710, 800 and 900 models) that will be the real heartbreaker.

With most handset manufacturers ignoring Microsoft for Google’s Android, Nokia was the sole developer looking to go with Windows Phone as their primary smartphone platform (Nokia still has some phones in the pipeline running Symbian and Meego, which are capable smartphone systems but carry almost no app market at all).

Nokia will still likely be the centerpiece OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) of Windows Phone 8, but considering that the Lumia launched less than a year ago, this means almost every Lumia owner right now will be a year, or less than a year through a 2 year commitment to their phone. And with the release of a tablet built by Microsoft themselves, it's conceivable that in the future Microsoft will morph into something like Apple - a firm that makes its own hardware and software exclusively. You could have full Windows on a tablet/laptop made by Microsoft, all your entertainment and gaming through a Microsoft built XBox - why not a Microsoft made phone in your pocket?

Back to the obsolescence issue. By contrast, when Apple releases iOS 6 later this year, it will still be compatible with the iPhone 3GS, a phone nearly 4 years old (albeit with some features unavailable).

Android users similarly feel the sting of obsolescence, with many models lacking the grunt to run the latest iteration, 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”). But this usually applies to cheap, prepaid Android models – top of the line handsets like Samsung’s Galaxy Line have the capacity to account for upgrades about 2 or 3 years away.

Microsoft will release Windows Phone 7.8 for users left behind, a stop gap measure that offers some of the Windows 8 functionality, but missing most major improvements. So the lesson here is – hold off  on any Windows Phone purchases for now. And if you already out your faith in Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft and jumped on a Lumia…our sympathies :(


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