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There appears to be some confusion breeding on whether or not existing Windows Phones will be compatible with version 8 of the operating system (codenamed Apollo) expected later this year, with contradicting reports supporting both theories and Microsoft refusing to give an official response.
It's been reported that some or all current users won't be able to upgrade, even those who buy new, second-generation devices. It probably didn't help that, when asked about forward and backward compatibility at a meeting in Mobile World Congress earlier this year, Terry Myerson, the Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone, only confirmed that current apps will run on Windows Phone 8.
"We haven't announced Windows Phone 8, but in terms of I can show you our goal to all Windows Phone 7 applications will run on Windows Phone 8. Application compatibility is always something, where there's always stuff on the fringe.... The spirit is our goal that all Windows Phone applications today run on our next release."
Nuno Silva, who works as developer evangelist at Microsoft, seemingly put concerns to rest in an interview with Portuguese technology site Zwame published yesterday, where he states in no uncertain terms that all devices – including first generation ones – will get upgraded to the next major version of Windows Phone. But the interview has since been pulled, and when reached for comment Microsoft only reiterated the app compatibility bit, while saying they have nothing else to share about future releases at this point.
The Verge also reached out to its own sources and came up with a discouraging answer for Windows Phone owners: "there will be no upgrade path from Mango to Apollo."
Software updates have always been an Achilles' heel of Android devices and it won't bode well for Microsoft's platform if the company can't get at least its second generation devices to run Windows Phone 8. Love it or hate it, one can't help but compare this to the way Apple has handled updates for its devices, delivering iOS 5 updates globally and simultaneously to its almost three-year old iPhone 3GS as well as the iPhone 4 and 4S.
Perhaps Apollo will contain some major feature improvements over Windows Phone 7 that will warrant new devices, but current Windows Phone owners won't be happy to have hedged their bets for Microsoft's platform. Hopefully, Redmond will offer a more definite response soon.