Windows Phone 7.8: After Months Of Silence On WP7′s Last Ever Update, Microsoft Says “We Hope To Share More Details In Near Future”

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Windows Phone fans have had a plethora of news about Windows Phone 8 in recent weeks, with the WP8 launch event taking place at the end of October and shiny new phone hardware finding its way into shops. But when it comes to Windows Phone 7.8 — the last ever update for WP7, the older version of the OS built on an entirely different kernel to WP8 — Microsoft has been strangely silent.

The 7.8 update will bring the new, more flexible homescreen to 7.x Windows Phones — and, well, so far that’s the only confirmed detail, although rumours abound about additional features: from Bluetooth file transfers to access to the Xbox music store. Whatever it ends up offering, the 7.8 update will definitely not offer forward compatibility for WP8 apps, being as the underlying tech of the two OSes is different.

Paul Thurrott flagged up Microsoft’s silence about the 7.8 release schedule on his Windows blog over the weekend. In the post, which has now garnered more than 70 comments, he wrote

When Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7.8 in June, I knew it was too good to be true. At the time, it seemed like Microsoft was throwing a bone to disappointed early adopters who would not be able to upgrade their existing handsets to Windows Phone 8. Today, it just seems like a slap in the face… Today, almost exactly one month after the Windows Phone 8 release and over 5 months after it was announced, Microsoft has never really publicly discussed Windows Phone 7.8 again nor has it hinted at when it might be released.

He ended his post with the following appeal to Redmond

After five months of silence, it’s time to prove you really do care, deeply or otherwise. It’s time to open up. Post something. Discuss Windows Phone 7.8. Tell us when, and why it’s taking so long. Something. Anything.

Well, turns out Microsoft might actually have been listening. Asked about the release schedule for WP7.8, and when the update will land, a Microsoft spokesman told TechCrunch there is no formal announcement at this time — but hinted that news of the long-lost update will be coming soon.

“We have made no further announcement on this but hope to share more details in the near future,” the spokesman said.

That “near future” could be as soon as this week, if a story on Tonis Tech Blog is on the money — quoting “sources near the subject” who say WP7.8 will arrive on Wednesday.

A Nokia spokesman could not shed any light on the timing of the 7.8 release, noting that the “update calendar” is set by Microsoft.

Nokia’s older portfolio of Lumia devices — such as the Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 — are among the handsets most likely to benefit from a 7.8 release, especially the 900, which only launched a couple of months before Microsoft announced that the next generation of its mobile OS would be incompatible with the 7.x branch.

A video of a forthcoming low-end Lumia device, the 510, apparently running the 7.8 version of WP has leaked onto YouTube (via Know Your Mobile) — further suggesting the update launch’s is imminent