Microsoft Tells the Foibles of its Windows Phone

Two days after the first Windows Phone 7 update become available, and problems began surfacing for some users, Microsoft has released some details about why.

Nine of 10 Windows Phone users who were notified that the firmware update was ready installed it with no problem, according to Microsoft. For half of those who did, the two most common culprits were a bad Internet connection or not enough backup space on their PC.

A "small number" of users were affected by a "technical issue with the Windows Phone update process" that for some reason affected some Samsung phones. Microsoft still has not explained why or how. In its first public assessment of its first firmware update, and the first since the update became available two days ago, the company says it is "working to correct the problem as quickly as possible." Until then, the update remains suspended for Samsung phones, but not for other brands, such as HTC and LG.

BACKGROUND: Windows Phone 7 glitch magnified by confusion, inflexibility

The details were revealed in a post late yesterday on the Windows Phone Blog by Michael Stroh, a technical writer now with the Windows Phone group. He joined Microsoft in 2007, after a decade of writing on science and technology for a range of publications, including Popular Science and The Los Angeles Times.

Stroh leads off with a narrative technique known as "in media res," Latin for "in the middle of things," creating the setting: "It's been roughly 48 hours since we hit the send button on our first Windows Phone software update. The rooms around me are buzzing with folks monitoring the rollout, sifting carefully through incoming phone health data (from customers who provide it) and pouring [sic] over the anecdotal update reports you've been posting around the web."

Stroh strikes an upbeat tone. "Contrary to some of the gloomy headlines out there, our preliminary internal data paint a very different picture about update progress...." Ninety-percent of those who received the 'update available' alert had no problems; and 50% of those that did either had a flakey Internet connection, or didn't have enough disk space on their PC. For updates through Microsoft's online Zune store, the Windows Phone handset is cabled to the PC, and then creates a backup on the PC's hard drive of all data on the phone.

He uses rhetorical questions to contrast the "gloomy headlines" with a dose of realism. "Has the update process gone perfectly? No - but few large-scale software updates ever do, and the engineering team here was prepared."

Stroh acknowledges the human pain of technical problems. "Of course, when it's your phone that's having a problem - or you're the one waiting - it's still aggravating."

He assures readers that "we're committed to learning from our first update and improving the process. We know we have work to do, and we won't be satisfied until you are."

Ironically, when Stroh announced the original update on the same blog on Monday, he explained that this "relatively small" update "is designed to improve the software update process itself."

Microsoft is still planning a feature-laden firmware update, adding capabilities like copy & paste, within a few weeks, perhaps starting in early March.

Microsoft has created a description for Windows Phone users on how to "Make room on my computer for phone updates."

And there's now a trouble-shooting guide for firmware updates.

Users continue to help out at the Microsoft Answers' Windows Phone 7 Forums.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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