There has been a lot of confusion about the Windows Phone 7 update process after Paul Thurrott posted several quotes attributed to Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore who claimed last month during the NYC launch event that carriers will be able to block updates if the wanted to do so. First off I would like to say that I have no inside info or anything and this is just based on the info currently available and some logical thinking.
I don’t think that Carriers can or will block OS Windows Phone 7 updates. Why? Because they technically shouldn’t be able to do so given that everything is “owned” by Microsoft. Every update or notifications is done by Microsoft via their own server. But let’s get back to the basics first.
Here’s how the Update process looks like (also lookat the screenshot above):
As you can see even OEMs have to submit their Rom, updates or modifications to Microsoft’s Sustained Engineering team for testing and certification. It’s only then that Microsoft will either push the update notifications OTA to the phones targeted by this update or reject it. Users will then receive the OTA notification and be able to install it via the Zune software. Just to be clear: Updates will NEVER be done OTA. Contrary to what some MS reps said a while ago this was NEVER the plan. Those of us who bothered to read the internal document that was leaked back in February can clearly see that only update Notifications and Scanning are done OTA. Once this notification is accepted by the user the update process will be done via the Zune software. It’s even officialy explained on the Windows Phone 7 website here.
Now where does the carrier fit in this picture? Well no where because Mobile Operators don’t have any control over the final process. Just take the sim card out of your WP7 device and all the OTA services will work through Wifi thus bypassing the carrier network. Plug in your device and perform and update scan in Zune and this is what you will see:
As you can see only the OS version is apparently checked by the MS servers and nothing else.
Now let’s take a look at what Joe Belfiore supposedly said:
“We build an update for everyone, and certify them with carriers,”
“They’re on a regular cadence as they are on the PC. “
“If a carrier wants to stop an update, they can. But they will get it out on the next release.”
How exactly can the carrier ”Stop” this update given that they have Zero control over it ? All the carrier does is test it before MS pushes it and all I can think of is the carrier asking Microsoft to restrict the update to certain devices (because they found a bug or something and didn’t have time to fix the issue) resulting in some carrier branded phones not receiving the OTA notifications (and that’s if the MS server actually looks at the firmware version and not only the OS version as seen in the Zune software update section right now). This means that the so called “block” is done by Microsoft and not the carrier. But once again this doesn’t make much sense. Why would Microsoft not wait until all carriers are OK with the update before pushing it out. Remember that Mobile Operator don’t have much control over the Rom all they can do is add 60mb of apps in the ROM and add some Bookmarks in IE. Nothing else. Their applications are also handled similarly to every other third-party or OEM apps: it’s submitted to Microsoft for certification and then hosted in the Marketplace (on MS’s server). Once again, the Carrier doesn’t have any control and Microsoft owns everything. They decide when to publish something or not.
“Carriers could in fact block updates to sell you a phone. That can happen,” he said. “We don’t expect that to happen. We are not going to push updates onto carrier networks that they have not tested. Microsoft is being very trusting of the carriers here. It’s very different from the situation with Windows Mobile, where every phone was very different and a full test pass was required on every phone. Here, there’s no impact on OEM code, network code, etc. There are upgrades that will require a full test pass. Most will not.”
Still doesn’t make much sense. “We are not going to push updates on to carrier networks” ? Sure you don’t. Because nothing is ever pushed through the carried network. Like I said before: pop the SIM out and you get the exact same notifications because everything is pushed through Microsoft’s servers. Just think about the iPhone of the Nexus One. In both cases everything is hosted and controlled by Apple and Google. There are several builds of the updates (One for each iPhone models or regional localization for the Nexus One) and in both cases the carrier can’t do anything about this. As I said earlier if something is blocked, it is on Microsoft’s side if a carrier asks the company to not publish a build dedicated to a certain phone model/SKU.
Anyway, I’m not saying that I got it right here. I’m just trying to give you my opinion on this messy situation. BTW here’s Microsoft latest official statement (which I also heard during the Oct 11 launch):
Microsoft will push Windows Phone 7 software updates to end users and all Windows Phone 7 devices will be eligible for updates.
Microsoft controls everything…