Windows Update Feature for Windows Mobile to Go Live with 6.5?

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Though over the air Windows Update was thought to have been supported on Windows Mobile 6.1–the icon was definitely present–we have yet to see any firmware updates being pushed out that way, leaving some to doubt the Windows update process. It seems that with the newly unveiled Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system, Microsoft will be kicking things up a notch. On the AT&T Pure, made by manufacturing partner HTC, Windows Update for got rebadged and rebranded as AT&T Software Update–clicking on the icon will ping AT&T’s servers for possible updates.

At this time, however, it seems that the carrier’s servers do not have new updates as the OS–Windows Mobile 6.5–is still fresh and new and there hasn’t been any discoverable bugs for Microsoft to patch. Checking for updates returned a text message stating that “Device management task not completed” because the device “could not complete the task because a connection to the server cannot be established” even though I had great 3G coverage.

However, as the screenshot below indicates, it may be a telling sign that OTA firmware updates may become a reality now on Windows Mobile devices; I am a bit surprised that the feature isn’t mentioned in more reviews. Together with Marketplace for Mobile for direct OTA purchase and installation of applications and new upgrades to Live services for Windows Mobile, Windows Update will help Microsoft create an untethered user experience for Windows phone.

When we pushed Microsoft for additional answers on the show floor at CTIA in San Diego, we were told that the firm is looking into the issue and that it makes sense to simplify the user experience in having automatic OTA upgrades. However, we did catch up with a company spokesperson, who says:

“Some Windows Mobile 6.1 phones will be upgradeable to Windows Mobile 6.5 using an ActiveSync or direct over the air connection if they meet hardware requirements. Ultimately, it’s our partners’ decision whether their phones will support the upgrade. Additional information on updating to Windows Mobile 6.5 is available at “>http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile.”

Looking at the broad statement given by the Microsoft spokesperson, we’re seeing possibly two different scenarios for Windows Update. The first scenario is minor patches and firmware upgrades, perhaps in fixing driver issues or small glitches–if any–within a current mobile operating system version, like Windows Mobile 6.5. The second scenario presented by the statement seems to infer that major operating system upgrades can be pushed out over the air as well–like a Windows Mobile 6.1 to 6.5 upgrade. If the latter scenario is possible, it will definitely help new users to the platform upgrade their phones without complicated upgrade instructions for connecting their Windows phone to a PC via USB.

Read on to learn more.

According to our reviewer’s guide for Windows Mobile 6.5 created by Microsoft for members of the press, we learned that carriers can begin pushing out updates to Windows phone users:

“Mobile operators now have the option to push updates to mobile phones without user intervention. Although this feature bypasses the user downloading an OTA Firmware Update, the user has the option to cancel or accept the update. The update does not install automatically.”

The good thing about this is that although updates get pushed for the convenience of the user, the user remains in control of their own device on whether or not to install and apply the new updates.

Additionally, Microsoft has also worked on a system that carriers can implement to push out firmware updates to roaming users: “System Center Mobile Device Manager (MDM) can push non-roaming updates concurrently with roaming updates.” The best part of this is that the update process is intelligent and can save its stage during a power loss or when a user goes into an area without network coverage. Windows Update for Windows Mobile will save the current state of the device and resume the update process when power is connected or a user returns to an area with service coverage: “This new functionality helps make sure that the phone is not left in a half-configured state, and the mobile operator does not need to retry the update session from the beginning,” essentially saving the user time and money on data charges. This definitely will help to not brick devices and minimizes user-created errors during the update process.

Automatic firmware OTA upgrade is a nice feature that I have enjoyed while using a Palm Pre on Sprint’s network. Hopefully, Microsoft could convince its carrier partners to implement this compelling feature to give Windows phone a truly untethered existence.

It should also be noted that neither a Windows Update icon nor a re-branded Verizon Update icon is present on the Windows Mobile 6.5 HTC Imagio on Verizon Wireless.

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About The Author
Chuong Nguyen