Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.x Phones Not All Upgradeable to 7

Microsoft is citing "strict" hardware requirements as one reason why many -- if not all -- recently introduced Windows Mobile 6.5 devices may not be upgradeable to Windows Phone 7.

Meanwhile, the company demonstrated an early prototype of one of LG's upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series handsets for a popular gadget site over the weekend.

LG is only one of several handset OEMs that have committed to producing 7 Series phones, the first of which are slated to debut in time for this year's holiday sales season. Among the other device makers who have signed on board Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Series bandwagon are Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Toshiba.

The LG prototype is one of the first to be demonstrated. In the blog post on gadget site Engadget, a Microsoft official showed off a pre-production prototype.

However, the question in many phone users' minds is whether recently introduced Windows Mobile 6.5 and other 6.x-based phones will be able to upgrade to the new 7 Series operating system. The answer is: maybe, maybe not.

First, most 6.x-based phones don't conform to the physical specifications for Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) newly introduced Windows Phone 7 Series, which require that each phone have three dedicated buttons -- Home, Back, and Search (Bing).

A strict set of hardware requirements

Microsoft has not officially said that phones built on its aging Windows Mobile 6.x operating system will not be upgradeable.

But it admits that it has a stringent list of hardware requirements that may bar 6.x phones from upgrades to Windows Phone 7, and even those that pass the requirements still may not make the cut.

"For Windows Phone 7 Series we are enforcing a strict set of hardware requirements to ensure a consistently great experience for end-users and developers," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mailed statement.

"While we cannot confirm that WM6.X phones that satisfy those requirements will be upgradeable, every Windows Phone 7 Series device will be upgradeable with improvements and features we deliver with subsequent Windows Phone 7 Series releases," the spokesperson added.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced Windows Phone 7 Series at the Mobile World Conference (MWC) 2010 in Barcelona on Feb. 15.

Just this past October, Microsoft OEM partners began delivering handsets based on Windows Mobile 6.5, an interim update to the 6.x series operating system that does not have all the fancy functions -- such as multi-point touch control -- that Windows Phone 7 Series will feature.

Interestingly, the Windows Phone 7 Series prototype LG device has more buttons than the three required by Microsoft, according to the Engadget blog entry. Those buttons are for camera, volume, and power. Additionally, the phone will have a slide out QWERTY keyboard for texting.

The device also sported a five megapixel camera with a flash on the back of the unit.

"Since creating a strategic alliance last year, LG and Microsoft have been working closely together in bringing Windows Phones to market. LG is one of many partners that Microsoft is working with to bring Windows Phone 7 Series phones to market," the Microsoft spokesperson said.

Microsoft is expected to reveal more details regarding its Windows Phone 7 Series strategy at its MIX 2010 conference in Las Vegas March 15 through 17.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Microsoft, mobile, Windows Mobile software, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series