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Microsoft Phone man offers guarantee-free glitch pledge

Phones are harder than PCs - who'da thunk?

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MIX 2011 Microsoft will try to avoid the mistakes that bedeviled the NoDo update to handsets but Windows Phone chief Joe Belfiore has stopped short of issuing a guarantee.

Belfiore, the corporate vice president responsible for Windows Phone product management and design, said on Wednesday that Microsoft has learned its lessons from the update snafu. Belfiore was flamed and forced to apologize recently for belittling the plight of Windows Phone users still waiting for NoDo, released on February 21.

The company has thrown more staff at the building and testing of phone code and improved methodologies, he told Microsoft's MIX conference in Los Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday.

But there are fundamental differences in the phone market compared to PCs, he said, and this makes it harder to build and deliver software compared to PCs.

With that in mind Belifore said he is "optimistic" and "expects" Microsoft can avoid a repetition of the problems of NoDo.

"We are optimistic we've gone through that learning process and won't face that in the future," he carefully told MIX prior to unveiling details of the next Windows Phone update, codenamed Mango. NoDo was supposed to pave the way for Mango by adding copy and paste. Belfiore added later: "We expect we are going to get these problems licked and have no problems in the future."

Microsoft might have many years of experience in building and updating Windows, Belifore said, "but phones are different."

One head scratcher was how Microsoft has nailed the Windows Update process for PCs, and moved many Windows people over to phone, but tripped at the first Windows Phone update.

"The OEMs do a lot more of the core operating system code on phones than PCs. Mobile operators play a role in testing and we are still trying to figure out the process for doing that," Belfiore.

Belfiore blamed the three-way set up of software provider, handset maker and service provider for hampering Microsoft's ability to update and to also communicate about the problem. Aside from the delayed updates, it's been Microsoft's lack of explanation about what's happening, why, and when updates will finally arrive that have angered users.

"We are trying to get better about communicating all this. One of the things we struggled with is this involves us, OEMs and mobile operators and it's hard to communicate what other people are doing," Belfiore said.

The problem with the NoDo update was that not all phone users got their updates at the same time - some still have yet to receive them. Further, the update bricked some Windows Phone handsets. Windows Phone is available on handsets from just five OEMs, a deliberate move we were told last year was intended to help get Windows Phone right and avoid problems.

Belfiore told MIX there was not one single reason for the problem with NoDO, but different problems. One was Microsoft tested NoDo on pre-release handsets but the handsets were updated by OEMs for sale. He also reckoned it's up to the carriers to apply the update, not Microsoft, so users on different networks are not getting updates at the same time.

Microsoft felt it best to follow this approach rather than build the update and then wait for all carriers to be ready. "We think things will go faster in the future," he said.

"Have we learned from this and will it get better" Belfiore asked. "I'd definitely say 'yes'." ®

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