You’ve probably read a lot recently about the “iPhone ecosystem” and the “Windows Mobile ecosystem”. So what does it all mean? Reed and Steve of Microsoft have written an interesting blog post about the Windows Mobile ecosystem. It’s geared more toward developers, but I’m going to copy the gist of it here.
When you see an announcement like “Windows Mobile 6 was released today” and wonder why it takes 3-6 months before you see a device in the market, it’s because a lot of work has to happen to go from platform release to the commercialization of a device. The device might say “Windows Mobile” but Microsoft [is] just a part of the team that makes it happen. At a very simplistic level, the release cycle looks something like this today:
- Microsoft releases Windows Mobile Platform X.X and Adaptation Kit to all licensed device makers
- Device makers “adapt” our platform to their new hardware (adding radio & drivers, power management, system plumbing, software customizations, select optional components, etc.) to create a Windows Mobile device they can sell through Operators
- Operators negotiate with device makers to choose which devices they think will bring business to their networks
- Device makers & Operators work together to “brand” chosen devices, include operator specific software/radio, decide on default security model, etc.
- Devices must pass Microsoft logo testing to meet base level device quality and experience and carry the “Windows Mobile” brand
- Devices must pass Operator acceptance testing and pre-market prep (sales, support, training)
Once a device is in market, [then] we continue to release updates on a regular basis to Device makers…
- Microsoft releases Adaptation Kit Updates (think Service Packs for Windows Mobile) as well as new platform releases to Device makers
- Device makers and Operators make a business decision on whether to build, test, and provide updates to devices in the market
As you can see, with Apple controlling the hardware and most of the software that goes on the device (I assume iPhone carriers do put something of their own on the iPhone), the process is simpler for them. Also, Apple seems to have gotten the carriers to trust them to do updates, so that part of the process is simpler for Apple, too.
I’m hoping, as are many others, that Microsoft can at least take back part of the update process. They should be able to update parts of the operating system over-the-air that don’t require OEM or carrier customization. FOr example, the OS files could be updated in storage memory and the update package could be pushed into ROM (so the changes weren’t lost after a hard reset).
Maybe the current Windows Update feature of Windows Mobile 6 can do this, but it still seems to require carrier cooperation, which ideally wouldn’t be necessary.
I hope this helps to explain why Apple can be quicker than Microsoft at getting updates out and why OS upgrades for Windows Mobile users aren’t a given.