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Windows Phone 8.0 smartphones may not be upgradeable to 8.1

Nokia issues differing statements, while Microsoft is mum on device upgrade question

October 30, 2013 10:49 AM ET

Computerworld - As Microsoft prepares to release a major upgrade to its Windows Phone operating system, to version 8.1, some third party software makers are unsure whether smartphones running Windows Phone 8.0 will run the new OS.

Three software vendors said this week that price discounts by carriers on some Windows Phone 8 smartphone models and slower than expected sales of these devices make them wonder whether Microsoft and its phone makers, including Nokia and Samsung, are trying to reduce WP8 inventories before new WP8.1 phones arrive.

The Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade could appear in November or after the first of the year, according to analysts and software vendors, but Microsoft isn't saying. Nokia, which makes 80% of Windows Phones and is being acquired by Microsoft isn't saying either. Samsung didn't comment.

Asked whether Nokia's WP8 phones, including the Lumia 1020 and the low-cost Lumia 520, would be upgradeable to version 8.1, Nokia issued two differing statements to Computerworld just two hours apart early Wednesday. The first emailed statement from Nokia spokeswoman Nina Ratavaara said, "We don't comment on future products, but Microsoft has confirmed that smartphones running Windows Phone 8 will be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.1."

Two hours later, she corrected the first statement to say only that "Microsoft has confirmed that smartphones running Windows Phone 8 will be upgradeable."

Microsoft said that it would not share its future plans, but then added that the Windows Phone OS "is upgradeable ... If or how individual devices are upgraded has not been announced."

Three software makers that hope to produce apps and other products for mobile device management or tools to run HTML 5 Web-based apps on various platforms including Windows Phone were amazed by the statements from Microsoft and Nokia and urged more clarity. They and various analysts noted how Windows Phone 7 devices couldn't be upgraded to Windows Phone 8, an indication that history could be repeating itself.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if current Windows Phone 8 phones don't work on 8.1," said Abe Elias, chief technical officer at Sencha, a Web app development company that uses HTML 5 to build apps that can run across platforms such as Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Another executive at a third-party software maker that builds apps for Windows Phone 8 and the older Windows CE OS that is still used in many industrial settings said he expects WP8.1 to be a major upgrade that will provide the upgrade path for the CE devices that haven't been updated since 2009. He also said that Silverlight, a development tool for Web and mobile apps, won't be supported on 8.1. He spoke on the condition that he wasn't named, since he said some of the information is privileged.



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