All signs point to Windows Phone 7 devices not being upgradable to Windows Phone 8, code-named Apollo, when it ships. The big question is: Does it really matter?
Microsoft is being cagey about whether Windows Phone 7 devices, such as the Lumia 900, will be able to be upgraded to Apollo. Terry Myerson, Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone had this to say about that at the Mobile World Congress on February 29, according to Mary Jo Foley:
"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."
That's not quite a "no," but it's close. She's only saying that Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows 8 phones, not that the phones will be upgradable. But my assumption is that if Windows Phone 7 devices would be able to run Windows 8 Phone, she would have said so, as a way to convince people to buy a Windows Phone device now, rather than wait for Apollo to hit.
Then things got confusing. Earlier this week, Microsoft "evangelist" Nuno Silva gave an interview to Swame in which he said that all Windows Phone 7 devices will be upgradable to Windows 8.
Things didn't end there, though, because The Verge now reports that Microsoft sources say that Windows Phone 7 devices won't, in fact, be upgradable to Apollo.
Even if that's true, does it really matter? After all, many Android devices can't be upgraded to later versions of Android when new Android versions ship, and that hasn't held back Android from becoming the most popular smartphone operating system.
Windows Phones are different, though. Microsoft's sales pitch for them, especially when Windows 8 hits on PCs, netbooks, and smartphones, is that when you buy a Windows Phone device, you're buying into the entire Windows ecosystem. Expect there to be synergies between Windows 8 on PCs and on smartphones, such as a common interface and cloud-based integration, and expect Microsoft to make a big marketing push pointing out those benefits.
So if Windows Phone 7 devices aren't upgradable to Apollo, that could hurt Microsoft, because Windows Phone 7 buyers may feel cheated. Either way, though, Microsoft should make it clear whether the devices will be upgradable. Uncertainty is never a good way to sell products, and Windows Phone could use all the help it can get.
Update: The Microsoft evangelist now says that he didn't mean to say that Windows Phone 7 devices will be upgradable to Windows 8.