OTA feature updates for Windows Mobile in the works

Windows MobileIt looks like the days of flashing ROMs for your Windows phones (and nervously sitting on the edge of the chair) are soon to be a thing of the past with a “Device Update” service coming to Windows Mobile. A recent tantalizing Microsoft job advertisement writes,

Have you wished to see your Windows Mobile phone with new features “magically” show up without you buying a new one? Do you want to see greater and better quality and cool software delivered to your love ones’ Windows phones from just a click? If this is your dream, this is a place for you. Come join us to make this dream into reality! With the mobile industry’s strong growth and several competitors playing in the field, we are going to have a challenging but fun time to show customers what Windows phone can become in the next few years.

We are in Windows Mobile device update team. Our goal is to enable customers to anticipate and enjoy a predictable stream of new and improved capabilities for their Windows Phone via a Device Update service that is worry-free and easy-to-use. Broad scope and impact, deep technologies, engineering challenges, partner interfacing with OEMs and MS internal partners, and fast pace delivery are all part of our charter. In the agile development environment, you will be working with PM/architect/test and partner teams to deliver critical stack of the update solution. You will lead a team of smart developers to solve problems in mobile OS, PC applications, and interacting with web services.

Whilst the feature won’t be arriving in Windows Mobile 6.5, when it does come it should solve a huge problem that has held Windows Mobile back from if nothing else than continuous evolution. It’s not that Windows Mobile can’t stay up-to-date, Windows Mobile 6.5 is definitely a worthy upgrade, but the update cycle is so long and update process update so disruptive updating Windows Mobile today for most people ends up being buying a new phone.

Even if this “Device Update” doesn’t install updates like patches on Windows, having an in-OS ROM-flashing service without dependency on device vendors or operators (who aren’t the quickest in the firmware game to say the least) will be a huge plus.

Let’s just hope this “magic” is at least being cast into Windows Mobile 7.

Update: Someone pointed out that ArsTechnica wrote about this story first, so credits to them.

25 insightful thoughts

  1. Let’s first try to believe, that it will be Windows Mobile 7 ‘coz I’m not sure, that Microsoft itself believes in this. Next, should not “magic” windows mobile update work since “Update” appears after XP was released in WM? And last, but not least, will MS pay for “magically” growing of GPRS (or any other mobile internet) traffic charges?
    In general – bad idea :)

  2. @Tamir: I’m not sure I understand all of your points, but the last point about traffic charges, over-the-air doesn’t mean it’s over GPRS, it just means it can be downloaded to your device without tethering to a PC. You could update your device over Wifi and don’t pay a cent.

  3. @Long: regarding the last point, if we’ll take into account, that by default WSUS works unattended and whenever it want to work, also there is no really good “connect when I want, rather then when any app wants” in WM, it has a good chance to increase traffic charges.
    Regarding other points: I have good reason to believe, that MS has some problems with setting timelines for WM v.next, also Windows Update never really worked in WM, but it there since WM6

  4. My god, it took them so long. They do realize that the fans have been screaming for this so long? For example 6.1 has had a annoying alarm-bug in it and no fixes for it. Actually XDA-Devs saved my phone on that. (alarms did not remove and stacked every time i changed them, i had like 20 alarms at once)

    What’s also going with the WM7 boom? Maybe they should keep it under wraps, 6.5 feels old before it even arrives.

  5. @Tamir: You’re right, the “Windows Update” feature in WM6.1 today is entirely useless. They don’t even use it to deliver the important Daylight Saving Time updates which affect a lot of mobile users.

  6. @Tamir – I heard the main reason why “Windows Update” doesn’t work, is mainly because the network providers didn’t want to allow this through their networks, so Microsoft was “stuffed from the start”… great idea but prevented by the networks outside of their control :-(

    In general, this is an extremely good idea!!! and its desperately required in this day and age.

  7. oh… darn, no edit option (Long we need an edit option :-)

    Anywho, I mean the “over the air” OS updates ARE an extremely good idea.

  8. This is old news, and Firmware OTA (FOTA) will in fact come to WM 6.5. Search WMPoweruser.com for firmware for more info.

  9. @surur: Well in the case of WMPoweruser.com’s story (http://wmpoweruser.com/?p=3894), it couldn’t be backed up with any notable evidence and I don’t think it’s coming to Windows Mobile 6.5. Nothing in the ROMs leaked recently suggests that feature is in WM6.5 and this job ad indicates they’ve only started working on it.

  10. WM has had OTA updates for a long time (6.0, I think). The problem is, it needs to be enabled by the operator, because the code that comes down has to be the operator-customized version. As yet, no operator has deemed it worth their while (as far as I know).

    During the MS Internal 6.1 beta last year — which uses roms built by the internal team — several builds were released as OTA updates, in order to test the system. It worked beautifully.

  11. @Demens you can try my solution too http://khason.net/blog/my-windows-mobile-does-not-sound-alarms-my-windows-mobile-alerts-whenever-it-want-to-alert/ . BTW, it seemed, like duplicated alarms issue is not targeted to WM7

    @Glen you are right, it is because of Telcos who want to manage their customers, however you missed my main point – operating system, which designed to work on smart devices (Windows CE), where phone is only application like any other application cannot be tailored maid for phones. MS need to completely redesign it if they want to stay on this market.

    @Bob OTA works terrible in internal tests and intended to be use for only those with unlimited data subscription (to minimize costs).

  12. Microsoft already recommends purchasing an unlimited data plan with Windows Mobile phones in their Exchange Server documentation. I would not be surprised if this was recommended in other locations, as well. Therefore, I don’t think data charges should be an issue for Microsoft if they are already recommending users purchase unlimited data plans.

  13. @surur: Well I also have very good insider information indicating it is not coming in Windows Mobile 6.5 and for good reasons so i’m going to bet its not. I’m happy to be proven wrong :)

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