Microsoft has published a support document on its website (via Engadget) that indicates both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.8 will stop being supported in the second half of 2014, in July for Windows Phone 8 and September for 7.8. The timelines reveal that Microsoft seems pretty committed to an 18-month support cycle for mobile software releases, but it is interesting to see this information made official before Microsoft has done much at all to indicate what comes next.
On the one hand, this is a good example of a company being refreshingly transparent about their product plans. With iOS, you never know exactly when Apple will drop support for its previous iterations of iOS, for example. And when Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 8, it blindsided many by announcing that devices running Windows Phone 7 wouldn’t be able to upgrade to the next major revision.
Microsoft has said that indeed there will be “an upgrade path” for Windows Phone 8 devices this time around, so an end of support could be less significant. But it’s clear that Microsoft is thinking in terms of desktop products (this is how it lays out support cycles for Windows releases) with this kind of end-of-life announcement, and it might confuse mobile subscribers, especially given that Microsoft hasn’t yet made it exactly clear what will follow Windows Phone 8 as its next-generation mobile platform.
There are rumors that suggest we’ll see the next big update for Windows Phone arrive in time for the 2013 holiday season, but for the sake of developer and consumer confidence, it would be in Microsoft’s best interest to provide more details on those plans before releasing an EOL timeline for the OS that’s powering the devices it’s currently offering for sale. In the mobile game, end of OS software support can look an awful lot like a death sentence, especially for developers who don’t want to deal with the added headache of serving up different versions of apps for a fragmented market.
It’s good to know when Microsoft will be officially ending support for its mobile OS releases, but it’d be even better to know that those currently using their devices can expect something excellent to follow, with an upgradeability path that does indeed guarantee those with an 18 month-old or younger handset won’t be left behind.